Attraction

Wagner Free Institute of Science

An unusual natural science and history museum in its original Victorian setting.

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Photo by C. Smyth for Visit Philadelphia
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Overview

While just coming to the Wagner Free Institute of Science’s Victorian building is a treat, it is only a precursor to the vast 100,000-specimen museum on the brightly-lit second floor.

The museum houses stuffed birds and small animals in antique glass cases and complete skeletons of larger animals, like a buffalo and an English draft horse, can be spotted around the floor, too.

The interpretations around the exhibits explain the changes in the science of the Victorian era with ours today.

Guided tours are available.

 

The History

Begun in 1855 by William and Louisa Binney Wagner as a free adult science-education institution, the Wagner Free Institute of Science continues its mission with classes, a 45,000-volume research library and a natural-history museum with specimens dating back to its founding. The building itself is a National Historic Landmark.

Don’t Miss

The animal exhibits may be more prominent, but don’t miss the many cases of minerals, insects, shells and, especially, the fossils. There are oddments that are fascinating without being bizarre – mastodon teeth, huge corals, rattlesnake hides. The interpretations around the exhibits explain the changes in the science of the Victorian era with ours today.

The saber-toothed tiger is the first one found in America, discovered on a museum expedition to Florida in 1886.

It’s way in the back, but don’t forget to see the remains of the Brontosaurus Excelsus, the 38-ton thunder lizard of prehistoric times.

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