Adam Goldin | Philadelphia Blog

Adam Goldin covers Philadelphia news and updates.

Tag: museum

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Go Primeval at The Franklin Institute

Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Times!

The Franklin Institute is a standard in the hearts of Philadelphians. From walking through the “giant heart” to the consistently exceptional special exhibits, the Franklin is equally as pleasant for a 30-something’s date activity as it is for a family outing.

The new special event is no exception. With Jurassic World: The Exhibition, the Franklin Institute gets you “the closest you will ever come to living dinosaurs.” Bringing you behind the scenes of the blockbuster movie, the exhibit is multifaceted. From paleontology, to animatronics, to the ethical consequences to consider in genetic modifications, this exhibit leaves children and adults alike with plenty to think about!

During your visit you’ll be guided through The Park by a virtual Park Ranger, and encounter the world’s most sophisticated animatronic dinosaurs as well as live actors in a movie-like setting that gets you up-close and personal with dinosaurs, and places smack-dab into the world of the Jurassic movies.

Then, step into the shoes of the scientists of the movie by walking into a science lab full of interactive exhibits. Jurassic World used world-renowned paleontologist Jack Horner as a collaborator, so the experience is not just an awesome up-close-and-personal with dinos, the exhibit also explores the science of paleontology. What are fossils? Check them out in person.  How did dinosaurs behave? How do we know what they looked like or what they ate? Learn about DNA science, cloning, and potential cause-and-effect of genetic modifications, with hands-on learning stations. There is an area discussing climate, the environment during the time of the dinosaurs, and the events that caused things to change. It also explores animal science, like scientists examining scat to learn more about and identify animals, and the science of camouflage.

The museum partnered with the Creature Technology Company, the brains behind the hit exhibit Walking With Dinosaurs, to create the animals you’ll see at the Franklin Institute. Walk through the iconic park gates from the films into a lush park that feels miles away from Foucault’s Pendulum. All your favorites are there, from Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor, to a Brachiosaurus, culminating in a dramatic battle between the movie’s Indominus Rex and a Stegosaurus.

The exhibit runs from now until April 23rd, and is sure to please audiences of all ages. Check out the Franklin Institute Website for more info and prices!

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Philly’s Hidden Gems: Ten Unknown Attractions

When it comes to sightseeing, visitors and locals alike focus mainly on the world-class museums and historical sites that were the foundation of the country. While you should absolutely visit those locations, here are some off-the-beaten path places to check out. Even some lifetime residents won’t know about all of these spots!

 1.  Mütter Museum

Okay, so the Mütter Museum isn’t very hidden, but it is super unique. Surgeon Thomas Dent Mütter, MD donated his lifetime collection of 1,700 objects and some money to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1858 under the promise that the college would hire a curator and maintain the collections as well as continue to expand it. Mütter’s collection was medical in nature, containing anatomical specimens, models, medical instruments, and more. Here you can find slides with sections of Albert Einstien’s brain, a collection of skulls used in the study of cranial anatomy, a plaster cast as well as the actual livers of famous conjoined-twin circus performers, Chang and Eng Bunker, and a “Mega Colon”, as well as a chest of drawers full of objects accidentally swallowed by patients and removed by a doctor.

2.  Insectarium

Not everyone knows that Philadelphia is home of the largest insect museum in the country. There’s interactive displays, live and mounted bugs, a “petting corner” and lots more to see here!

3.  Philadelphia’s Magic Garden

More a giant, immersive, outdoor art installation than a garden, this place is truly magic nonetheless. There is a museum dedicated to the artist, Isaiah Zagar, as well as the garden itself, spanning half a city block and containing multiple levels, everything you can see in the magic garden is covered in mosaic, folk art, glass bottles, sparkling mirrors, handmade pottery tiles, stories, and more.

4.  Giant Wooden Slide

There is a giant wooden slide (39’ long and 13’ wide) in East Fairmount Park. The Giant Wooden Slide was added to the Smith Playground in 1905. The Smith playground there has a playhouse and other activities for families, but the slide is unique and fun for everyone.

(And while you’re in Fairmount Park, visit the Cave of Kelpius, believed to be the 17th century home of America’s first cult of mystics to predict the imminent apocalypse. From Philadelphia, take Ridge Avenue to the beginning of the Wissahickon Bike Trail, and turn right onto the trail. Follow the trail into the woods (by foot or bike), alongside Lincoln Drive for almost a mile, then turn left. From there, just keep an eye out. It’s not easy to get to. Most people find it by accident. Fortunately, the Wissahickon is wonderful to explore, with the Toleration and Indian statues, and the Devil’s Pool.)

5.  Edgar Allen Poe Site 

He was known for living in Baltimore, but he did important work in Philadelphia. You can visit the site and learn about one of the most important figures in American literature. You will marvel at what an amazing life he had, and you can see some of the things that cast a shadow on his output as a writer. And after than, make sure you take a side trip to the Rare Book Department of the Philadelphia Free Library to meet Grip The Raven! Once Charles Dickens’ pet raven, Dickens had it professionally taxidermied and mounted when it died. This raven is the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s famously intense poem.

6. The Moon Tree

Washington Square Park, and it’s Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, are hardly a hidden gem. But most visitors don’t know they’re standing just a few yards away from a moon tree! Seeds were sent into space on the Apollo 14 Moon mission by the Forestry Service, and when they came back to Earth, the seedlings that grew were spread around the world, from the White House to Brazil to being given to the Emperor of Japan. Check out the one that landed in Philadelphia!

7.  Tiffany Glass Mural

Dream Garden, a 15′ x 49′ masterpiece mural created by the Tiffany studios, is made of over 100,000 pieces of favrile glass in more than 260 individual shades, and is a really stunning work of color and light. Displayed since 1916 in what is now the Curtis Center, it is one of the largest Tiffany glass installations in the world.

8.  Masonic Temple

The Masonic Temple is a place you need to see to believe. By turns gaudy and beautiful, made in a variety of architectural styles, this is one of the most elaborate Masonic buildings in the country both in architecture and in interior decor, the Temple also houses a museum containing items like George Washington’s Masonic apron and Ben Franklin’s Masonic sash.

9.  Rosenbach Library

The Rosenbach Branch of the Free Library is the best one in the city. You could spend hours in its shelves wondering what hidden gems you will find next. It has one of the most incredible rare book and manuscript collections in the world. From Thomas Jefferon’s inventory of his slaves, or a first edition of Dox Quixote, to notes and outlines for Dracula penned by Bram Stoker, to a hundred personal letters of George Washington, this place has an incredible cross-section of history.

10.  The Chemical Heritage Foundation

The Chemical Heritage Museum has a great museum, chronicling the history of science and technological achievements, but their First Friday events are the real gems. (I.E. events like: Writing & Reading Alchemy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Extreme Art Makeover, Make Your Own Book Of Secrets, and Cheese, Chocolate, and Fermentation.)

Philly’s Hidden Gems: The Wagner Free Institute

WagnerFreeInstituteOnce a Victorian science institute, now a living, breathing connection to the past. A museum about museums. A look into how we viewed science at the turn of the century.

In the 1840’s, William Wagner was so passionate about science he gave lectures out of his own home. He amassed an extensive collection of scientific specimens often used as reference in these lectures. At some point, the crowd of Victorians anxious to listen to William Wagner speak grew so large they couldn’t all fit into the room with him. Called the “gentleman naturalist” by his peers, Wagner decided that the popularity of his collection and lectures has grown to the point they needed their own home. He expanded into a new building he named The Wagner Free Institute of Science.

With lofty ideals about continuing lectures and a museum of science open and free to the public, the beautiful Victorian Wagner building was completed and opened in 1865. It houses the natural history collection Wagner collected in his home and allowed him to expand his specimens. There is also a commanding, beautiful lecture hall in which he could continue to lecture all the way up until his death in 1885.

Immediately after the death of William Wagner, renowned biologist and paleontologist Joseph Leidy was brought on to curate and head the research. He expanded the repertoire of the museum and organized the entire collection according to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Every taxidermy and mount, from insects to sea life, was arranged in order of simple to complex organism, rather than genus or species. This reorganization of the museum took place in 1891, and was never changed again. The museum has been upkept beautifully, but not a thing has changed in more than 120 years. From the 1865 handwritten labels of the specimens to the original cherry wood cases made for the museum’s exhibits, everything is frozen in time. A look into a place in our history when technology, scientific knowledge, and the pace of the average life was changing so rapidly, there is both an air of stillness and an air of excitement and possibility to the museum.

There is also an element of humor, seeing a platypus in a case next to a sloth, which is next to an anteater, as an example of Darwin’s theory of evolution. But they also house many “type specimens” – the first identification of a new species. The Institute was the first to discover a skull of a saber-toothed cat on an expedition to Florida. There are complete skeletons ranging from buffalo to English draft horse, as well as taxidermy, shells, minerals, fossils, and of course, a brontosaurus as well.

There are some interpretations around the exhibits explain some of the changes in science and thought from the time of the handwritten placards to today, but it would be wonderful to the the museum embrace its dual role as science museum and ode to Victorian science in a time capsule. They do have a scavenger hunt for adults or young adults that can be downloaded before your trip or picked up there that can explain more details. The have hours set aside for artists who wish to sketch ever Friday afternoon. They continue to hold lectures on the premises, and they sponsor Science on Tap, which is a monthly gathering at the bar National Mechanics in Old City, with presentations by scientists and experts followed by lively debate and conversation.

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