A few months back we decided it would be a great idea to purchase a family membership to the Academy of Natural Sciences here in Philadelphia. We had gone with friends of our prior to that and Eamon absolutely fell in love with it. Over the previous few years we had stuck with the smaller museums such as The Delaware Museum of Natural History because they are super (younger) kid friendly and do not put that much of a sensory overload onto him. All of the yelling of kids, echoes, feet stomping, and attractions can make life difficult for kids with sensory issues, but DelMNH was (and still is) always a place he loved to go (and the price for admission is great...and I always found coupons using my Recyclebank Account!). But thanks to a discount coupon we found, we were able to afford the membership - which has already paid for itself AND MORE!
The Academy of Natural Sciences is the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Americas. At its inception, Philadelphia was THE hub for education and culture in our new nation, so, as explorers were venturing deeper into the western part of North America (and the rest of the world), the artifacts and species being collected were brought back to be studied and cataloged. The collections expanded so rapidly through gifts, purchases, and exchanges - as well as expeditions - that the Academy outgrew its building three times in 60 years. In 1876, its present home was built at 19th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, then the outskirts of town and now the heart of Philadelphia's cultural district. With the opening of the new building, the Academy became a modern museum with areas for exhibitions and public lectures. *
When visiting the museum it is difficult to imagine but it is still largely used for scientific research in fields such as biochemistry, ecological modeling, botany, entomology, and, of course, paleontology. In fact, there is a room where you can watch them chip and brush away at dinosaur bones! In addition, the building holds the Ewell Sal Stewart Library, which holds nearly 200,000 volumes of works on natural science research dating back to the early 15th Century and is a logistical hub for environmental policy and urban sustainability.
There are several levels of the museum dedicated to the education and discovery of the natural world with everything from giant dinosaur bones, a butterfly house, a theater, and dioramas of animals from around the world. Eamon's favorite is the North American Hall, where we absolutely MUST visit the moose (Dubbed the "FrankenMoose" thanks to the story shared by our friends as well as one of the curators. The original moose had its head swapped out for one with larger antlers as a form of friendly competition with other museums.) The "Outside In" playroom is also a must do, especially if your kids are younger. There is a little sand pit that is great for sensory play as well as several animals to see and sometimes touch including turtles, snakes, a rabbit, and bugs. There is even a large bee hive!
Every few months there is a special exhibit on the firs floor of the museum. During the summer there was a great one called "Backyard Adventures" where you could play mini golf, see how fast your pitch was, ride a bee bike...oh, and learn some great things about the plants and creatures that live right outside your door. Now, that has been swapped for a great exhibit called "Tiny Titans" showcasing real dinosaur eggs and embryos as well as even more fossils and another great dress up/play area for kids.
My favorite exhibit, however, is the Butterflies From Around the World exhibit. The exhibit changes every day as a result of the lifespan of each species. When you enter the exhibit, you are surrounded by tropical foliage with the butterflies landing on the plants and fruits to feed right there in front of you. There is also a place where you can watch them emerge from their cocoons if the time is right. If you are lucky, one might even land on you.
We made a video of our last visit to the museum. Check it out below! And make sure to give the museum a visit the next time you are in Philadelphia!