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The Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry, University of Cincinnati
Apparatus Museum

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Some Photographic Equipment II : Film and Print Development : Notes from the Oesper Collections, No. 58, September/October 2019
Posted on Tuesday October 29, 2019

Part II of our series on photographic materials in the Oesper Collections deals with chemicals for photo development, developing tanks for film, and printing frames and developing trays for positive prints. Click here for all other issues of Notes from … Continue reading


The Apparatus Museum, which houses the Jensen-Thomas Apparatus Collection, is one of three components of the Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry, which also include a rare Books and Journals collection and an historical Portraits and Prints collection.  The apparatus collection contains roughly 4000 artifacts spanning the period from 1650-1970.  You may access the apparatus by using either the Museum Virtual Tour, which will give you an overview of the museum, or the Displays, which will allow you to directly access the individual display cabinets.  The circa 1900 Laboratory may be accessed directly via the Laboratory Virtual Tour or via the Museum Virtual Tour.  In addition, individual artifacts may be directly accessed using any one several indices listed under the Indices tab.

The Virtual Tour and the 3-D models that appear on apparatus pages require the Java browser plug-in.  If you do not see these animations, please go to and select 'Free Java Download.'  (Contact us if you need further assistance.)

The artifacts are classified into three categories: original, reproduction, and restoration.  Most of the late 19th and 20th-century artifacts fall into the category of original, whereas virtually all of the early 19th, 18th and 17th-century artifacts fall into the category of reproduction.  This reflects the fact that almost no chemical glassware earlier than the late 18th-century has survived intact.  Indeed, most of the items in European museums from this period, and especially the so-called alchemical laboratories, are also reproductions.  Most chemical apparatus is modular and, in order to show how it is properly assembled into an actual working laboratory setup, many different parts are required.  Thus, for a proper display of a distillation setup one requires not only a condenser, but flasks, adapters, clamps, stands, corks, glass tubing and a heat source.  In such cases, these various parts may have come from a variety of donors and, in some cases, it may be necessary to reproduce a missing part in order to assemble the whole.  Those artifacts which have been assembled from a mixture of original parts and reproduction parts are classified as restorations.

The current website presents a basic introduction to our collections.  It will be gradually elaborated.  As illustrated by artifact DA0001 in case 16, eventually each artifact will be linked to period textbook or catalog illustrations, a short description of use, and to related items in our book and print collections.  As with all museums, only about 20% of our holdings are on actual display.  In the future we also hope to link each display item to further images of related artifacts in our extensive store rooms.

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