The History of Color
For thousands of years, we’ve colored our clothes, our bodies, and our environments to express our culture, our beliefs, and our traditions.
This digital collection features a broad selection of materials related to the scientific study of color and the science and practice of dyeing and painting.
William Henry Perkin
With the accidental discovery in 1856 of the first commercialized synthetic dye, mauve, Perkin introduced a new era in the chemical industry.
BOLD: Color from Test Tube to Textile
Take a colorful journey through more than 150 years of natural and synthetic dye-making.
Fit to Be Dyed
The enduring appeal of tie-dye.
Dig Deeper in the History of Color
Interested in historical materials about color? Explore our museum and library collections!
GROUP & SCHOOL TOURS
Synthetic Dyes and Indigenous Craft
Learn about the Navajo “Eye-Dazzler” in this interactive virtual museum program.
A Colorful Life
Color by numbers—no problem, thanks to Albert H. Munsell, who pioneered methods for color comparison.
The Color of Extraction
Encountering rare earths in art, environments, and the phone in my pocket.
Many everyday items are described as “flesh” and “nude” in color. Whose skin color do they represent?
In exile, Navajo created new designs for their rugs and blankets using the new synthetic dyes.
THE DISAPPEARING SPOON PODCAST
Claude Monet and Bee Purple
How cataracts nearly ruined the impressionist painter’s career—and then revived it by giving him an insect-like superpower.
True Blue: DuPont and the Color Revolution
DuPont’s colorists were prophets of the color revolution, guiding corporations and consumers in choosing hues for everything from car fenders to countertops.