Color in a New Light

Name a topic that links science, history, art, and culture. How about color?

Let’s follow the theme of color through the vast collections of the Smithsonian Libraries, and make a few unexpected connections and discoveries.

Most of us take color for granted. We simply see it the moment that light beams from or reflects off an object, enters our eyes, and is processed by our brains. But do we stop to think what color actually is?

Journeying through the collections of the Smithsonian Libraries — from chemistry to catalogs, from colorblind tests to couture — we might see color in a new light.

Visit the Exhibition through March 2017
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Ground Floor
10th St. and Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20560
Box text: the science of color Box text: making of color Box text: matching color Box text: using color
By scientifically establishing our visible spectrum (the colors we see in a rainbow), Newton laid the path for others to experiment with color in a scientific manner. His work led to breakthroughs in optics, physics, chemistry, ... more Until the mid-1800s, all dyes came from natural sources, such as insects, roots, or minerals. Producing them was difficult and expensive.

In 1856, an 18-year-old English chemist, William Henry Perkin, ... more

I say green; you say green. How do we know we’re talking about the same color?

Color charts, created as early as the 1600s, included color samples and names, providing a standard ... more

As manufacturers improved their ability to reproduce any color imaginable, the problem of choice arose. How do consumers decide what colors they want? How do designers know what colors to offer? ... more
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Lead Sponsorship
Benjamin Moore logo

Additional sponsor
The Shepherd Color Company logo