GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 41-2
Presentation Time: 1:50 PM


NEWCOMB, Sally, 13120 Two Farm Dr., Silver Spring, MD 20904,

Philadelphia is unusually rich in natural history museums and their associated libraries, which tell the story of the progression of scientific knowledge. The reasons for their formation and subsequent history speak to the evolution of a democratic nation and attitudes toward science and societys in general. Well before the 18th century the questions, marvels, and problems of the natural world were of great interest. Facets of geology were useful for mapping, resource location, boundaries, and transportation. The colonists were informed about the latest European science and also contributed to it, both the European educated elite as well as the rising artisan class. The Library Company was initiated in 1731 by Benjami Franklin and his artisan Junto. The extensive holdings include artifacts and paintings. They partner with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, founded in 1824, to conserve and provide access to millions of printed, graphic, and manuscript items. The American Philosophical Society, first founded in 1743, continues its mission of "promoting useful knowledge" with its museum and library. Charles Wilson Peale opened his gallery in 1782. In 1786 he began his museum of natural history to answer the curiosity of the public and to provide income. The museum and programs at the Fairmont Water Works trace its devewlopment from Franklin's suggestion and funding for a clean water supply for the city, and its actual inception in the early part of the 19th century. The Academy of Natural Sciences, from 1812, is one of the oldest natural science institutions in the western hemisphere with a wealth of objects and in its archives. The Wagner Free Institute of Science was founded to teach science in 1855 and still does, with its Victorian natural history collection intact. A seeming "outlier," the Chemical Heritage Foundation, has a museum and library which include much of interest to geoscientists and the history of geology. The Franklin Institute, 1824, now functions as a center for science education and development. These institutions are alive and well today with the exception of the Peale Museum. All are accessible and welcoming.