Joseph Priestley House

Northumberland, Pennsylvania

Friends of the Joseph Priestley House

Since November 2009 The Friends of Joseph Priestley House have administered the museum under the terms of a management agreement with the PA Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).  The Friends open the museum to the public on a regular basis, care for the collection in the museum and perform custodial duties.  The PHMC maintains the grounds and buildings and covers utility costs.

Since 2009 the Friends have completed these projects:

Pond Building Renovation.

The Friends held the funds raised by Penn State chemistry alumae and others.  These funds  supported renovation  of the Pond Building as a meeting and exhibit space.  Work consisted of replacing the roof, installing air conditioning and heating, renovating the interior with new walls and lighting.  A re-dedication ceremony was held in November 2010.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for renovated Pond Building
From Left: Roy Olafson (Emeritus Penn State Chemistry), Ron Blatchley (Priestley re-enactor),Bob Minard (retired Penn State Chemistry, Tom Bresenhan (President, Friends of Joseph Priestley House), Stephen Miller (PA Historical and Museum Commission) and Stewart Stabley (American Chemical Society)

Renewed Laboratory Exhibit.

Working with Dr. Mary Ellen Bowden of the Chemical Heritage Foundation and Erik Viker of Susquehanna University Theatre Department the Friends researched and installed a renewed laboratory exhibit in Priestley’s laboratory.

Renewed laboratory Exhibit

The exhibit consists of appropriately sized furnaces suspended over the footers of the 18th century furnaces, a hood to vent small stoves and fumes during experimentation and an expanded walkway to enable the public to view the remnants of the early fume hood.  An opening ceremony for the renewed lab was held in June 2011.

Ronald Blatchley as Joseph Priestley – the DVD.

In 2011 The Friends sponsored the production of a video of Ron Blatchley in his role as Joseph Priestley before a live audience.  Blatchley performs several chmistry demonstrations that encourage the audience to think about how achiements in chemistry impact their lives.  The DVD also includes an interview with Blatchley talking about his experiences as a Priestley re-enactor and “chemistry ambassador”. The DVD was premiered at the Annual meeting in Septeber 2011.

Ronald Blatchley as Joseph Priestley – DVD


To see the interview with Ronald Blatchley click


Joseph Priestley Timeline Exhibit.


Timeline Panels in the Pond Building, north wall

The Friends sponsored the research and production of a timeline exhibit.    Priestley invented the modern timeline that is so obvious and in widespread use today that we forget that it had to be invented by somebody.   The exhibit consists of a series of 8 large panels depicting Priestley’s accomplishments during different periods of his life.   The  exhibit was  premiered at the Annual meeting in September 2012.

Visitors to Priestley House view the timeline as part of their tour.


Discoveries of Joseph Priestley:  videos on Carbon Monoxide, Ammonia and Nitrous Oxide

The Friends of Joseph Priestley House have released videos of Priestley’s discoveries.  The videos include:  a review of his discovery,  a demonstration of the discovery process in a modern laboratory and a discussion of the hazards and uses of the gas.

Viewers of the videos are asked to complete a brief survey

Carbon monoxide discovery here

Ammonia discovery  here.

Nitrous Oxide discovery here:

Partial funding for the carbon monoxide discovery video was provided by the Susquehanna Valley Local Section through an American Chemical Society Local Section Innovative Program Grant (January 2013 round).

Partial funding for the Ammonia discovery video was from a Merck Cherokee Neighbor of Choice grant.

Partial funding of the Nitrous Oxide video was from Department of Anesthesiology, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. These videos  are used in the museum to explain Priestley’s achievements to visitors.

The Friends of Joseph Priestley House

This is a not-for-profit membership organization established in 1994 in partnership with the PHMC to:

  • Promote interest in Joseph Priestley and his work
  • Research and restore the Joseph Priestley House
  • Provide and facilitate educational programming
  • Establish fundraising activities in order to accomplish the above-stated and related purposes

Membership entitlements include:

  • Free admission to Joseph Priestley House
  • Discounted rates for members at special events
  • Trimester newsletter
  • 10% discount on purchases made at our gift center
  • One copy of the pamphlet “Joseph Priestley and The Priestley House” by Lester Kieft
  • Annual vote to elect Board members; vote on procedures and issues
  • Annual dinner meeting


Become a member.  Please join us in our efforts to preserve and enhance Pennsylvania’s cultural heritage - become a Friends member today!

The Friends of Joseph Priestley House is a registered charitable organization. In accordance with PA law, we are required to advise you that a copy of our official registration and financial information may be obtained from the PA Department of State by calling within PA 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.

Fund raising projects.

Limited Edition prints of  Joseph Priestley House  by Bradley Shoemaker are now available from the museum shop at the Joseph Priestley House!

Joseph Priestley House

“Joseph Priestley House” prints from an original watercolor by Bradley Shoemaker are available at the museum shop at Joseph Priestley House.

The artist has provided the Friends with copies of the print to sell as fund raiser

Prints are 14″ by 28″ on an 18″ by 31 1/2 ” sheet.
Prices for the print are $50 plus 6% state sales tax.  Copies can be picked up at Visitor Center.  We can also mail a rolled copy for an additional charge.  Please inquire.

 Ronald Blatchley as Joseph Priestley - the DVD

Ronald Blatchley brings to life Joseph Priestley, the minister who discovered oxygen. Blatchley, a retired chemistry teacher, has been a volunteer re-enactor since 1983.  He is filmed on March 13, 2011 during celebrations of Commonwealth Charter Day and Priestley’s birthday at the Joseph Priestley House Museum, in Northumberland, PA.   In costume before a live audience he demonstrates 18th century discoveries in chemistry with a light, humorous approach suitable for viewers of all levels.

In a separate, behind the scenes interview, Blatchley talks about using a teacher’s approach to the re-enactment of Priestley’s life and his experiences in this role.  The YouTuble link of the interview can be found below.

Copies of the DVD Ronald Blatchley as Joseph Priestley can be purchased for $15 plus tax at the Visitor Center or by mail with packing and shipping charges added.  Contact us for details.

Interview of Ron Blatchley on his roles as Joseph Priestley and “chemistry ambassador”.


Friends & Volunteers

Members of the Friends organization provide much-needed, invaluable volunteer support for a variety of tours, public outreach programs and special events offered throughout the season in addition to curatorial and clerical assistance.

We need your help – Contact us today for information on volunteer opportunities, training and rewards!
Register to be a volunteer online here!

Friends of the Joseph Priestley House

2018 Officers

  • President: Pat Martino
  • Vice-President: Seth Rorhbach
  • Treasurer: George Godlweski
  • Secretary: Hope W. Kopf

Members of the Board

Dee Ann Casteel

Samuel Geise

Angela Gockley

Wade Johnson

Laurie McCants


Volunteer Coordinator

Jo Ann Long

Newsletter Editor

Deborah Bernhisel