Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia
The Wagner Institute's nineteenth century exhibit hall – a soaring three-story space – houses an extraordinary collection of natural history specimens including mounted birds and mammals, fossils, rocks and minerals, insects, shells, dinosaur bones, and the first American saber-toothed tiger, discovered on a museum-sponsored expedition to Florida in 1886. Gathered largely by founder William Wagner and Institute curators and faculty during the nineteenth century, the collections are displayed in cherry-wood and glass cabinets dating from the 1880s and maintain their original “systematic” scheme, providing a rare view of a Victorian science museum.
Highlights include William Wagner’s personal mineral collection – one of the oldest in the country – and his fossil collection, representing many important European and American localities and collecting sites of the nineteenth century. The mounted skeletons, skulls and skins represent species from around the globe, including many that are now endangered. The extensive regional entomology collection is notable for its arrangement, which includes the original handwritten curator’s labels.
Originally assembled to teach science, the specimens are arranged for study. The exhibit is one of the largest systematically arranged collections on display in the country and remains in active use as a key educational tool of the Institute’s free science programs. It also serves as a resource for scholarly research.
Note: The above descriptive information came from the museum's Museum page.
In The News
- A man of science, Philadelphia Sunday Sun, November 19, 2021.
- In North Philadelphia, a museum is no longer a hidden gem, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 30, 2016.