Wagner Free Institute of Science

A rare view of a Victorian science at work

HUMANITIES, September/October 2010, Volume 31, Number 5

The Exhibition Hall at the Wagner Free Institute of Science in Philadelphia, with its original systematic scheme of cherry-wood cabinets dating from the 1880s, provides a rare view of a Victorian science museum. The Wagner Institute houses an eclectic array of natural history specimens, including a saber-toothed tiger discovered on a museum-sponsored exhibition in 1886. The specimens were arranged to teach science, and the institute’s educational agenda endures to this day with college-level courses in the natural sciences taught by faculty from Philadelphia’s colleges and universities. The institute has received NEH support to monitor the building environment and maintain optimal conditions for preservation.