The Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia

When I went to the the Wagner Free Institute of Science I was not sure what to expect. As my class and I walked into the auditorium it was interesting to note that the seating was divided into section. One of my first thoughts was that this reminded me of how traditional Jewish synagogues have divided seating for men and women. According to photos from the 1900s though this does not seem to be the case. Men and women seem to mingle and merge freely. This is just one reminder that this is an institution dedicated to serving the community around it.

Lecture Hall circa 1900

Heading upstairs was simply jaw dropping and overwhelming at the same time. Surrounding us was what seemed to be thousands of items. When wandering through one feels an obligation to view the items from the most simple to the most complex. It is interesting to note the focus of certain display cases on local items. While wandering through I noticed that I was not focusing on the names of objects but simply focused on what they looked like and how many variations their where of the same animal. This is something that I feel that people in the 1900s also did.

Wagner Free Institute of Science. Photo by David Graham.

The Wagner though is now finding itself in a new community of Temple students. One of the possible ways of reaching out to this community is creating a wider series of lectures that not only focuses on biology and animals but also on the history of museum, the history of community around the museum, and the history of Philadelphia itself. Another issue that I found with the museum is that it seemed simply overwhelming for someone with little knowledge of the natural sciences. A guide on how to read the display cards would have been extremely helpful.


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