Benjamin Franklin: A How-To Guide

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Exhibit Announcement
Benjamin Franklin: A How-To Guide
The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at Harvard University

[From the Website] What do you know and how do you know it? Today we are surrounded by self-help literature and how-to guides. While Franklin did not create this how-to universe, this most celebrated of self-made Americans did much to shape it.In recognition of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, three scholars - Joyce E. Chaplin, Sara J. Schechner, and Thomas A. Horrocks - have joined forces to curate a two-part exhibition that is simultaneously on display in two Harvard venues and explores the self-help theme from two perspectives.

At Houghton Library, the exhibition examines the Circulation of Knowledge, focusing on how information was made public. At the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the focus is on Science and Sociability, exploring how science was part of a social context that prized human interaction and collaboration.

The exhibition features rare books, broadsides, manuscripts, scientific instruments, natural history specimens, art, and music. Topics include How Charming,...see Clearly, an Experiment,... learn Things, ...get the Word Out, Good, a Political Animal,...see the World, Friends and influence People, Benjamin Franklin.Some of the books and pamphlets were written, printed, owned, or used by Franklin. These include Franklin's Plain Truth, Poor Richard almanac, and works on electricity, swimming, and numerous topics. Other items influenced his life and work. Among them is the manuscript in which John Hancock appoints and instructs Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to make a treaty with France in 1776. Another is one of only 25 surviving copies of the first edition of the Declaration of Independence. Personal letters between Franklin and Jefferson, David Hume, and various men and women round out the image of the man.

Notable scientific instruments include electrical apparatus that Franklin purchased for Harvard College in the 1760s, Franklin's maps of the Gulf Stream, and early bifocal spectacles of his design. Also on display are scientific instruments owned by friends of Franklin, including Joseph Priestley and Antoine Lavoisier, the chemists who independently discovered oxygen; John Jeffries, a physician and balloonist who delivered the first air mail letter to Franklin; and Charles Willson Peale, an artist who established a famous, national museum in Philadelphia. A wild turkey from Peale's museum - still stately after 200 years - is on display to help explain why Franklin wanted this bird to be our national symbol.Support for this exhibition is generously provided by: The Charles Warren Center for Studies in American HistoryHoughton Library, Harvard College LibraryDepartment of the History of Science, Harvard University

Exhibition Locations, Hours, & Contacts
Collection of Historical Scientific InstrumentsScience Center 251, 1 Oxford Street,Cambridge, MA 02138Summer Hours:Tues-Thu, 11:00am - 4:00pm, Fri, 11:00pm - 3:30pmBeginning in September:Mon - Fri, 11:00am - 4:00pmClosed on weekends and University holidays.For information contact Sara Schechner at617-495-2779 or

Houghton LibraryEdison and Newman Room, Harvard Yard,Cambridge, MA 02138Houghton Library Hours:Mon, Wed - Fri, 9:00am - 5:00pmTues, 9:00am - 8:00pmSat, 9:00am - 1:00pmClosed on Sunday and University holidays.For information, contact Thomas Horrocks at 617-495-2442 or

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