The iconic photo of Einstein in fuzzy slippers, some of his scribblings and the physicist's pipe are part of the collection. The iconic photo of Einstein in fuzzy slippers, some of his scribblings and the physicist's pipe are part of the collection. The iconic photo of Einstein in fuzzy slippers, some of his scribblings and the physicist's pipe are part of the collection. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Fans get glimpse of Einstein's favorite stuff

Museum showcases his record player, his pipe and his favorite chair among other items.

When visitors would enter Albert Einstein's house, the physicist would often hand them a small handheld puzzle. He wanted to see how quickly they could solve it.

Those puzzles, along with many other Einstein memorabilia, are part of a new gift to the Historical Society of Princeton. The items will now be housed at the museum, which is located in a 19th-century farmhouse on 6 acres in New Jersey. Also on display are dozens of pieces of furniture from Einstein's home, his music stand where he played violin, his record player and his favorite chair.

"We're very lucky that we get to tell his story," Izzy Kasdin, the executive director of the museum, told From The Grapevine.

Einstein sitting in an armchair and smoking a pipe, circa 1932. Some of these items are part of a new exhibit.Einstein sitting in an armchair and smoking a pipe, circa 1932. Some of these items are part of a new exhibit. (Photo: Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The cache of 50 personal artifacts was given by Gillett G. Griffin, a personal friend of Einstein's. Griffin first met the 20th century's most famous scientist in 1953 when Einstein invited Griffin over for dinner. The New Jersey Star-Ledger wrote of that first encounter: "That Saturday night Griffin entered the house and met Einstein, who Griffin said reminded him of the character Gepetto from Disney's movie 'Pinocchio' – kind, inquisitive, mustachioed and very European."

Their friendship lasted until Einstein's death at the age of 76. Griffin's gift also includes a drawing of Gandhi that used to hang in Einstein’s study, Einstein’s compass and pipe. The only other intact pipe of Einstein’s that is on public display is in the Smithsonian Institution, and it is the most heavily requested object for research and loans in the Institution’s Modern Physics Collection, according to the collection’s curator. Griffin received many of these items as a gift from Einstein's step-daughter.

While most of Einstein's scientific work is archived at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, an institute which he helped establish, his more personal side will be on display in Princeton.

"What we enjoy being in Princeton is that we get to discuss Einstein as a person and as a resident of the town," Kasdin told us. "So we get to have people's own recollections of him walking down the street or seeing how he interacted with children."

Kasdin said that during his lifetime, Einstein created a public presence that was much larger than just his scientific research. "He was a great humanitarian," she noted. "He created this persona around himself that goes far beyond the science that he was doing and I think that's probably what's captivating for a lot of people."

The museum is brainstorming ways to create a larger exhibition related to Einstein, but for now some items are already on display – including one very famous picture. "Part of the collection is this photograph of him sitting on his porch in Princeton with these giant fuzzy slippers," Kasdin said. "He's remembered as being a little bit of a kooky person which I think is very relatable. I think people like that in their celebrities. You want them to be a little goofy. You don't want them to be high and mighty all the time."

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