Wagner Free Institute of Science
1700 West Montgomery Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19121
(215) 763-6529 • ext. 17 Groups

For more than 130 years the Wagner Free Institute of Science has provided outstanding educational opportunities to its communities free of charge.

The Institute had its beginnings in the 1840's, when founder William Wagner began offering free lectures on science at his home, Elm Grove, on the outskirts of the city. Wagner was a noted Philadelphia merchant, philanthropist, gentleman scientist, and lifelong collector of natural history specimens. He drew on his vast collection to illustrate his lectures, which became so popular that he constructed a building to house his collections and expand his education programs. The stately Victorian building, designed by the same architect who designed City Hall, was completed in 1865, and stands today as a monument to the idea that education should be available to everyone.

The Institute's Museum contains more than 100,000 specimens illustrating the various branches of the natural world. Wagner's outstanding mineral collection will be found here, as will his collection of European and American fossils.

Displays are arranged in a logical sequence; visitors first explore simpler objects and progress to the more complex. Mounted animal skeletons, skulls and skins, birds, shells, and items collected on Institute-sponsored expeditions are featured among the many exhibits.

One unique aspect to this museum is that it is really a "museum of a museum": The exhibits have changed little in more than 100 years. The display cases themselves are antiques, and many of the display labels date back to the 1880's. Visitors will essentially be visiting a 19th century museum, a fascinating experience. The Museum may be enjoyed on a Self-Guided or Guided Tour.

The Wagner Institute offers a wide array of educational opportunities, both for individuals and groups. Adult evening courses address a variety of natural science topics, including Biology, Paleontology, Astronomy, Geology, and others. A regular series of lectures is also scheduled, and Special Programs throughout the year, such as the Dinosaur Symposium, are designed for the entire family. Call for a schedule.

School Groups can take advantage of hands-on Lessons, as well as a Guided Tour. All grade levels , Pre-K and up, will be accommodated with a program designed to meet student needs. Just a few of the many programs available include Animal Adaptations, exploring animals' use of camouflage, countershading, and other characteristics. Includes a slide show. Birds explores flight, habitats and habits, and includes recordings of bird songs. Dinosaurs and Fossils introduces dinosaurs and lesser known prehistoric creatures, drawing on the Museum's impressive collection. Ocean Life looks at the variety of habitats and animal communities within our oceans. Skeletons examines the function and purpose of various skeletons, including ours. Volcanoes and Earthquakes explores the inner earth, the changing landscape, and more. Many other programs are available or can be custom-designed. Call for details.

Hours: Open Tuesday - Friday 9am - 4pm. See official website linked above for holiday and summer break closures.
$8.00 suggested donation for visitors general admission.
Guided Tours:
Adults $15.00
Seniors $10.00
Children $5.00.
Call for group rates.
Reservations: At least 4 weeks in advance for groups. Individuals and families should also make reservations for Guided Tours, but less lead time is required.
Lunch: Nearby restaurants. Groups may eat bagged lunch in yard.
Handicapped Access: Limited. Call with your needs.
Directions: Located at West Montgomery and 17th.

Copyright © 1996-2014 by Patrick Tadeushuk. All Rights Reserved.