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Science & Technology

Behind-the-Scenes Tours of Science Treasures for Academy of Natural Sciences Bicentennial

March 9, 2012

Dr. Nate Rice showing a hummingbird specimen from the Ornithology collection to visiting students
Dr. Nate Rice showing a hummingbird specimen from the Ornithology collection to visiting students. Credit: Dennis Murphy/ANSP

As part of its yearlong Bicentennial, the nation’s oldest natural history museum announced today that it will offer behind-the-scenes tours of its world-renowned scientific collections, normally open only to researchers by appointment.

Since its founding in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University has amassed more than 18 million cataloged plants and animals—many the first ever studied—to create a comprehensive “library” of living organisms. Today, plants collected by Lewis and Clark, fossils excavated for Thomas Jefferson, and bird skins used by John J. Audubon to create his landmark The Birds of America provide baseline information about the natural history of North America. These specimens, a research library, and more recent collections gathered from around the world make the Academy an international center for the study of life on Earth.

Starting Sunday, April 15, 20-minute guided tours of these treasures will be given at 11 a.m. on Thursdays through Mondays throughout the yearlong celebration, which ends March 2013. A different specimen collection will be highlighted each month.

“This is a rare opportunity to get a firsthand look at some of the most stunning, and sometimes bizarre, creatures you’ve ever seen,” said Academy President and CEO George W. Gephart, Jr. “We can’t wait to open our doors and show off nature’s, and the Academy’s, wondrous bounty.”

Tickets can only be purchased at the Academy on the day of the tour. Tours will be limited to 10 people, and additional tours will be added if demand warrants. The fee is $5 for Academy members and $7.50 for nonmembers. Open to visitors who are 8 years old and up.

Enjoy monthly themed programs

In addition to behind-the-scenes tours, each month the museum will give away a different object connected to the research being conducted by Academy scientists, such as a feather, a fossil, and a seashell. Bicentennial collection boxes to store the objects will be distributed during Bicentennial Weekend, Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25, and then sold in the Academy Shop while supplies last. The boxes can be decorated to the owner’s liking.

Similarly, programs and activities for each month will be based on that month’s theme and will offer new, enlightening experiences for visitors, including interactions with Academy scientists, entertaining science videos in the auditorium, hands-on games, crafts, and other fun activities.

Themes for the programs and collection tours are:

  • April – sustainability and the earth, featuring a tour of the Mineral Collection.
  • May – female scientists and historic natural history books, featuring a tour of the Academy’s Library and Archives.
  • June – birds, featuring a tour of the Ornithology Collection.
  • July – mammals, reptiles and amphibians, featuring a tour of the Herpetology or Mammalogy Collections.
  • August – insects, featuring a tour of the Entomology Collection.
  • September – diatoms (microscopic algae), featuring a tour of the Diatom Herbarium.
  • October – seashells, featuring a tour of the Malacology Collection.
  • November – living animals, featuring a behind-the-scenes tour of the Live Animal Center.
  • December – fish, featuring a tour of the Ichthyology Collection.
  • January – plants, featuring a tour of the Botany Collection.
  • February – fossils, featuring a tour of the Vertebrate Zoology Collection.

For a complete schedule of events, programs and tours, visit


Media Contact:

Carolyn Belardo