I enjoy the gizmos of modern science museums, but I really love good, old fashioned natural history museums, and Philly has two terrific examples.
The Academy of Natural Sciences:
Founded in 1812, The Academy is the oldest natural science institution in the western hemisphere. It houses Thomas Jefferson’s fossils, Lewis and Clark’s plants, and many of the birds collected by John James Audubon (plus a copy of one of the large books of Audubon prints – they have a page turning each day at 3:15). But, the best part are the dioramas, many of which were constructed in the 1920s and 30s. They have an exhibit and video showing how the dioramas were created.
The Wagner Free Institute:
The museum building was completed in 1865 and houses a huge collection of specimens including: mounted birds and mammals, fossils, rocks and minerals, insects, shells, dinosaur bones, and the first American saber-toothed tiger. The collections are still displayed in the cherry-wood and glass cabinets built in the 1880s. They are displayed in their original “systematic” scheme, providing a rare view of a Victorian science museum. Plus, it’s FREE!