The discoveries that rocked the world then and now share four floors of exhibit space in the engaging Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University .
A fully constructed Tyrannosaurus rex — one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs to ever roam the earth — greets visitors in Dinosaur Hall. The exhibit showcases more than 30 dinosaur and Mesozoic reptile species, including casts of Hadrosaurus foulkii fossils discovered in New Jersey in 1856. Visitors can also climb inside a Tyrannosaurus rex skull, try on horns and claws, and dig for fossils.
In the Outside-In hands-on nature center, children can touch or observe live animals, crawl through a tree trunk and examine fossils under a microscope. Many of the museum’s animals are also featured in shows throughout the day.
The Butterflies! exhibit features dozens of different butterflies from East Africa, Southeast Asia and Central and South America flitting around in a simulated tropical rain forest. Guests witness the different stages in a butterfly’s life cycle and let their imaginations take flight as they experience the beauty and charm of these delicate creatures.
And 37 dioramas created between the 1930s and 1950s showcase large game animals — including gorillas, mountain sheep, lions, bison and more — mounted in 3D-painted dioramas that replicate their natural habitats. Notably, one diorama showcases the now-extinct passenger pigeon, once the most abundant bird in North America.
Founded in 1812, The Academy of Natural Sciences serves dual roles as both a museum and a research and educational institution. The museum’s collections grew so rapidly in its early years that it outgrew its buildings three times before settling on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 1876.
The institution sponsored some of the seminal explorations for American wildlife and fossils, and by the early 1900s, expanded those explorations to Africa, Asia and the Arctic.
Today, it’s easy to see why biologists at the institution have risen to the forefront of ecological and biodiversity research: They draw from a plant- and animal-specimen collection that’s 18 million strong.