APS Museum Collection

The American Philosophical Society Museum has a historically significant collection of approximately 3,000 artifacts and fine art objects, many dating back to the late 18th century. Objects were acquired predominantly through past APS members and scientific activities of the APS. The collection reflects the central role of the APS and Philadelphia in the founding of the nation as well as the development of science and technology in the colonies and early Republic. The collection is strongest in objects relating to early American history (especially Benjamin Franklin, the APS’s founder) and scientific and technological instruments from the 18th century through the early 20th century.

Click HERE to search the online collection.

Jean Baptiste Greuze, Portrait of Benjamin Franklin. 1984.02

Franklin Miniature Chess Set

Miniature Chess Set. 2009.25.

Treasures of the APS Museum collection include significant portraits of founding fathers; models of inventions; scientific instruments made by or relating to David Rittenhouse and other early APS members; plant specimens collected by Lewis and Clark; Benjamin Franklin’s personal belongings, such as a set of stencils, tall case clock, and library chair with fold-out steps; a bust of the Marquis de Condorcet by Jean Antoine Houdon; and a 16th-century refractive sundial, known as the “Dial of Ahaz,” by Christoph Schissler.

Astronomical Transit Telescope

David Rittenhouse, Astronomical Transit Telescope. 58.24.

Dial of Ahaz

Christoph Schissler, Dial of Ahaz. 58.66

Before the founding of the APS Museum, the collection was used almost exclusively for academic research. With the opening of the Museum in 2001, the APS committed to making its holdings available to the wider public. The Museum has pursued this mission by offering thematic exhibitions and public and educational programming. Thanks to a 2008 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Museum embarked on a project to offer even better access to the objects. As a result, the collection has become more physically accessible to visitors and scholars through stewardship efforts, including cataloging, photographing, conserving, archival rehousing, and renovation of the storage space. It is from these efforts that the APS online searchable database is now available.

Model of a Fireplace

Raphaelle and Charles Willson Peale, Model of a Fireplace. 58.2.

Collection of Brass Stencils

Jean Gabriel Bery, Collection of Brass Stencils. 58.48.

The Museum welcomes contributions of fine art, scientific instruments, patent models, miniatures, medals and medallions, furniture and other decorative arts, and archaeological and ethnographic objects in accordance with the scope and themes of its collection. If you would like information on making gifts to the APS Museum Collections, please email museumcollection@amphilsoc.org or call 215-440-3442.

Bust of Marquis de Condorcet

Jean-Antoine Houdon, Bust of Marquis de Condorcet. 58.S.2.

Incomplete Theodolite

Benjamin Chandlee, Incomplete Theodolite. 01.c.71.