American Philosophical Society

After living in Philadelphia for almost 6 months, I finally made it to the American Philosophical Society for a visit. Leila and I scheduled an appointment with head conservator Anne Downey to tour her lab located at the institution’s library on Chestnut Street.

The history associated with Philadelphia is one of the things I like best about the city. (Yes, I’m staying positive, even in this hot and humid weather :)). The Philosophical Society was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 as a place of leisure, to “cultivate the finer arts, and improve the common stock of knowledge.” Besides attending regular meetings, and publishing journals, the society was able to amass a large collection of books and other artifacts. Today, the collection continues to grow, and is open to scholars interested in items such as Ben Franklin’s manuscripts or Audobon’s Birds of America. There’s also a museum on S. 5th Street, near Independence Hall, where the public can go to see exhibitions like Dialogues with Darwin.

The Conservation Department is made up largely of book conservators as there is a great need for repairs on the books requested by readers. Denise Carbone and her associates do a fabulous job of making materials more user-friendly, including housing them in beautiful custom-made boxes with illustrations on the cover. I was surprised to see how much book conservators use Tyvek in their work, probably because of it’s strength, flexibility and highly waterproof surface. Elena Bouvier also makes her Tyvek covers fun with a little color dyeing; I can’t wait to try that sometime.

Thank you to Anne for wearing one of her many hats–tour guide–to show us around the lab!

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