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Celebration Preparation

November 9, 2011

Academy Bicentennial

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the nation’s oldest natural history museum, is getting closer to its yearlong bicentennial celebration, beginning March 21, 2012. Some major highlights include a new exhibition, a national scientific symposium, special programs with noted speakers, public engagement activities, discounted museum admission days, and a new coffee-table book on the Academy’s history.

The Academy kicked off a 200-day countdown to the bicentennial with 200 fascinating short stories on its website at The stories—some well-known but most little-known—reveal fascinating tidbits about the institution, its history, its key leaders and its enormous contributions to scientific knowledge.

The stories will culminate the day before the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Academy.

Then the real celebration begins.

“We can’t wait to share our exciting stories—past, present and future—with everyone,” said Academy President and CEO George W. Gephart Jr. “This is an exciting time in the Academy’s history as we charge forward into our third century as one of the world’s great natural history museums.”

On March 21, 1812, seven amateur naturalists founded the Academy, known as the oldest natural history museum in the Americas. Since then, the Academy has carried out its mission to encourage and cultivate the sciences, exploring the remarkable diversity of the natural world and sharing these discoveries with the public through innovative exhibits, publications and educational programming.

  Here are some of the special activities to look forward to in 2012:

The Academy at 200: The Nature of Discovery, March 24 to March 2013
Building on the Academy’s extraordinary collections and 200 years of scientific exploration, this major exhibit celebrates the museum’s groundbreaking discoveries and provides a glimpse into the future of one of the world’s great natural history museums. Visitors will “journey” alongside Academy scientists in search of new species, see rarely displayed Academy treasures, and explore how people impact the environment.

Bicentennial Weekend, March 24 and 25, 2012
The bicentennial year officially begins with the opening of a yearlong exhibit about the Academy, plus special appearances, fun hands-on activities, music, games, crafts and, of course, birthday cake.

SCVNGR Trek in March
A special bicentennial trek using smart phone technology will launch.

Center for Environmental Policy Town Square Series, April 2012 through June 2013
The Academy will host panel discussions and presentations by globally prominent speakers on critical issues of sustainability and the environment.

Academy Travels Afield, May through November 2012
A six-month exhibit at Philadelphia International Airport (between Terminals C and D, ticketed passengers) will highlight the global research of Academy scientists and the Academy’s collection of 17 million animal and plant specimens.

Bicentennial Scientific Symposium, October 11 and 12
Scientists from around the nation will gather to discuss “Biological Diversity: From Evolutionary Origins to Ecosystem Functionality.” The symposium will have a component for the general public as well.

Cuisine from the Collections in October
Noted area chefs will prepare a fun and funky dinner featuring a menu based on the wide range of species in Academy collections including birds, insects and shellfish.

Women in Natural Sciences 30th Anniversary in November
A celebration will mark the 30th anniversary of WINS, the Academy’s highly successful competitive science-education, life-skills mentoring program for Philadelphia public high school girls.

Bicentennial Gala March 2013
The celebration comes to a close with a black-tie party celebrating the Academy’s future while honoring the significance of its past.

For more information, visit

---Carolyn Belardo, Academy of Natural Sciences