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The Academy of Natural Sciences

This 200 Year Old Museum is Still a Great Time

By Molly Gavin

Created in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences has recently celebrated it's 200th birthday. This natural science institution and museum is the oldest in the United States. Over all this time, the Academy has not only provided entertaining and enlightening exhibitions for the public but it has been conducting original research and amassing an impressive natural history collection. The collection which contains over 17 million specimens includes fascinating artifacts such as mummies and dinosaur skeletons.


For the last 200 years the Academy of Natural Sciences has studied and paid homage to the spectacular diversity of our natural world.The Academy of Natural Sciences was founded in 1812 "for the encouragement and cultivation of the sciences, and the advancement of useful learning," by many of the country's leading "naturalists." These naturalists were scientists who studied natural history, plants and organisms. During this period Philadelphia was on the forefront of cultural, commercial and scientific advancements. The museum would legitimize American science. The founders of the Academy wanted it to serve as an educational tool but also to conduct real and "useful," research. In the 1820's they opened their doors to the public and began offering lectures by scientists, workshops and classes.They Academy sponsored research expeditions into the western wilderness where they would discover new species of plant animal life that they would bring back to the Academy to study and catalog. They eventually sent out to explore the Arctic, Central American, Africa and Asia. They Academy's scientific collection now contains more than 18 million specimens. Many of these specimens were incorporated into the Academy's famously beautiful dioramas so that visitors could observe them in the natural habitat.


The collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences have grown considerably over the years and now included over millions of biological specimens, hundreds of thousands of volumes, journals, illustrations and photographs. The Academy is like a massive library of species from prehistoric era, through the Ice Age and into today. One of the first things visitors see when they enter the museum is a 42 foot Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. This is Dinosaur Hall and the T. Rex is just one of more than 30 Mesozoic creatures on display. In Butterflies! you will find a tropical garden filled with hundred of live butterflies. At the Academy's life size dioramas halls you can get a realistic look at the natural habitats of exotic wildlife, far away places and distant times. Most of these dioramas were created between 1930 and 1950 and are still impeccable. They features bears, lions, gorillas, panda bears and more. The Academy doesn't just have taxidermied animals, bones and fossils but they also have a number of living, breathing animals. The live animal center has more than 100 live birds, mammals and reptiles. These are just a few of the amazing exhibits at the Academy of natural sciences. They have new exits often, family programs and activities, adult movie nights and lectures and workshops. Check the Academy's website for new exhibits and event listings.

Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-4:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-5pm

Address: 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Website: www.ansp.org

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