Looking for Lab Glass

As we continue to sort and catalogue artifacts from the Admin/Gunson assemblage we’ve come across a lot of lab equipment, mainly glass. My project involves examining lab glass we found at this site and trying to figure out what it is.

Bleb Test Tubes - Unit A
Bleb Test Tubes – Unit A

The main type of equipment we have found while cataloguing unit A are hollow glass tubes. Some of these tubes have a rounded end like a regular test tube, while others have a strange bubble-like end. After looking through books on laboratory glass blowing I was able to identify these bubble-like ends as a “bleb” or bleb test tube. We’ve found these tubes in a number of different sizes.

Other interesting lab equipment we’ve found includes parts of beakers, a microscope slide, and a syringe stopper.

Syringe Stopper - Unit A
Syringe Stopper – Unit A
Glass Stir Stick
Glass Stir Stick – Unit A

We’ve also found pieces of bottles that have chemical formulas (possibly ammonium hydroxide) labeled on them. We identified them as coming from the Wheaton glass company.

Wheaton Lab Glass - Ammonium Hydroxide
Wheaton Lab Glass – Ammonium Hydroxide
Insurance Document - Image used with Permission from University Archives
Insurance Document – Image used with Permission from University Archives

During our trip to the MSU archives I didn’t find much that helped me identify the lab glass or what it was used for. However, from looking through insurance papers I found that laboratory glass equipment was specifically listed as not insurable. This tells us that maybe lab glass was inexpensive and easily replaceable or that lab equipment was too expensive and dangerous.

As the semester comes to a close I hope to gain more information by visiting the glass blower on campus that blows glass specifically for the chemistry department. Hopefully they can tell us more about what we have found and what this glass was used for.

Some of the questions I hope to answer going forward with this project are: What lab did this equipment belong to? Why was it mixed in with the various other types of things we found at this site such as dishes and perfume bottles? Was it tossed out as garbage? If so, why?

Author: Jasmine Smith

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