How can you not love a museum that creates a formal label and permanently displays a cockroach that died in a (totally unrelated) exhibit!!?
Most people think of the Academy as a museum for little kids (which it is), but it’s also fantastic for adults with an interest in natural history and the history of science. The trick is to avoid times when it is crowded with kids (weekday mornings and weekend afternoons).
Founded in 1812, The Academy is the oldest natural science institution in the western hemisphere. It houses Thomas Jefferson’s fossils, almost all of the plants collected by Lewis and Clark, 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.
In addition to the North American, Asian & African specimens, they also have a section devoted to extinct animals, including the Great Auk and Passenger Pigeon (top photo).
One of my favorite areas is the exhibit and video showing how the dioramas were created. I love the creepy antelope cut half and the eyeballs and tongues!
The museum has a tiny amount of exhibit space compared to the size of the collection, so it’s hard to say which of the historical artifacts will be on display. There is always a case in the dinosaur hall with artifacts from Joseph Leidy and Edward Drinker Cope, two of the most prominent Victorian paleontologists.
Small, rotating exhibits are found throughout the building and library. On my last visit, I found this display of membership cards for Marie Curie, Ulysses Grant and Lord Kelvin:
Make sure to check the website for upcoming events. The museum frequently hosts lectures on current research projects. They also occasionally offer behind the scenes opportunities. Members should definitely take advantage of the yearly Members Night, where many of the behind-the-scenes areas are open and researchers are available to talk about their current projects. I attended my first Members Night October 2018 and had a fantastic time. Somehow we ended up spending 45 minutes talking to the mollusk researchers. Who knew land snails could be so fascinating, or that they laid eggs??!! Photos from Members Night 2018:
Tobey says: I like looking at the animals and seeing the live butterfly room.
NOTE 8/18: The library is currently closed while renovations are taking place to one of the adjacent dioramas.