I love this little museum. It’s FREE, it’s fun for children & adults, it’s right next to the Schuylkill River trail, and it has its own secret Sculpture Garden. What more could you want? Oh – they also offer low cost field trips.
Hundreds of people walk by the Waterworks everyday – walking the Schuylkill River Trail, visiting the art museum, taking pictures of the gorgeous building (Built in 1815, the waterworks provided water to Center City Philadelphia until 1909. The steam-powered technology, the gorgeous neoclassical architecture, and the landscaped gardens made the waterworks a famous 19th century tourist destination – Charles Dickens and Mark Twain were both impressed during (separate) visits to Philadelphia in the mid-1800s), but very few people realize there is a museum inside. We discovered it totally by accident one day when we were taking pictures.
Inside the museum are exhibits and a movie that highlight the history of the waterworks (with a mini “explosion” when it reaches the big steam engine explosion) and hands-on exhibits focusing on the river, water cycle and watersheds. My favorite is a display of videos showing animals using the fish ladder, including a turtle, snake and an otter.
WAY off the beaten path (down a small staircase to the left of the Waterworks), hidden down at river-level, is a sculpture garden focusing on the history of the Schuylkill River – from a source of food for the native Lenape and resource utilized by colonists, through its emergence as a manufacturing hub during the Industrial Revolution – and its return to health as a fishery and public resource. We have occasionally come across art students sketching, but often have the place totally to ourselves.
Tobey says: I like that they have a lot of hands-on activities and I love taking pictures outside.
FIELD TRIP: The year that we discovered the museum, we happened to be studying ecosystems in one of our home-school groups. They were happy to customize a class for our group focusing on the river and the watershed.