Science of the past is something best expressed in the visual arts, mostly because as William Gibson pointed out in his short story, "the Gernsback Continuum," the 1920s and up were the first era where visual artists were involved in defining science and technology. As Gibson put it:
"At the turn of the century, most pencil sharpeners looked like pencil sharpeners, a basic Victorian mechanism. After the 1920s many looked like they were designed in a wind tunnel."
I have the good fortune to live in New York City, which has a ton of buildings that look like Ming the Merciless designed them. This futurism was an art style that, like Film Noir, another American creation, that we didn't even know realized we had created until long after the fact.
Read the Gernsback Continuum here at American Heritage. I'd actually list it as one of the ten most important American short stories, actually. Gibson actually mentioned Frank R. Paul, an artist that was forgotten and then rediscovered two generations later, like Zora Neal Hurston.
And while you're at it, visit this gallery of vintage science illustrations and concepts on Flikr! Some of these are absolutely perfect for rainy days when you have nothing but a computer. I think I've found a new way to vaporize time online, other than Wikipedia, of course.
These designs have to be seen to be believed. Being a Masters student in Geoscience, my mind immediately went to the Victorian era diagram on minerals.