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The Academy Counts Down to its Bicentennial

October 26, 2011

Academy Bicentennial

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is counting down the days to the start of its bicentennial in March by sharing fascinating stories about the institution with the public. Every day a short, interesting story about the institution will be posted on its website at for all to read.The stories—some well-known but most little known—reveal fascinating tidbits about America’s oldest natural history museum: its history, its key leaders, its world-renowned collections, and its enormous contributions to scientific knowledge. There will be 200 stories in all.

For instance, did you know that the Academy has 12 volumes of hair collected by a 19th-century lawyer, including snippets from Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and John Adams? Or that one of the mummies in a diorama on the second floor of the museum was carefully removed a few years ago and driven to a local hospital for a CAT scan?

And how about this: The Academy has an image that may be the earliest interior photograph taken in the U.S., certainly the oldest photo taken inside a museum. In that photo is a teenage Joseph Leidy, who went on to become the father of American vertebrate paleontology and many other things, and also a young Edgar Allan Poe, who had a keen interest in natural history, chemistry and phrenology, not to mention writing. You can see this image now in story 37 at

About a quarter of the 200 stories have been posted so far, as the 200-day countdown continues to the start of the yearlong celebration beginning March 21, 2012. For the bicentennial the Academy is creating a major new exhibition that will build on its extraordinary collections and 200 years of scientific exploration.

Also there will be special themed programming each month, a national scientific symposium, special talks and panel discussions with noted speakers, public engagement activities, discounted museum admission days, a new coffee-table book on the Academy’s history, and much more.

For the latest updates, visit

---Carolyn Belardo, Academy of Natural Sciences