Experience Philadelphia's dinosaur museum
Founded in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is a leading natural history museum dedicated to advancing research, education and public engagement in biodiversity and environmental science. Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Museums District, the Academy brings science to life through a world-renowned collection of specimens and living animals. The museum is the place for young and old to experience nature and the environment in a fun and engaging way. Join us on this tour.
The centerpiece of the Discovering Dinosaurs exhibit is Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the largest meat-eaters, that grew to about 42 feet long and 7.5 tons.
Hadrosaurus foulkii in 1876
In 1868, before most of the world had heard of dinosaurs, the Academy became the first place to display a fully mounted dinosaur, the plant-eater Hadrosaurus foulkii from New Jersey. Visitors lined up to see it, and the museum, not used to large crowds, started to charge admission in an attempt to reduce the number of people coming through its doors.
Known as Philadelphia’s dinosaur museum, the Academy has a rich collection of dinosaur fossils that tell the story of life on Earth when the largest land animals roamed the planet. Deinonychus antirrhopus, despite its small size, may have been one of the fiercest of all meat-eating dinosaurs. This scene depicts Deinonychus attacking a Tenontosaurus and its young in a battle to the death.
Chasmosaurus belli, a horned plant-eating dinosaur, roamed North America in the Late Cretaceous, 76-73 million years ago. It grew to 17 feet long and weighed 2 tons.
A very old turtle
In the Fossil Prep Lab, visitors can watch as technicians carefully chisel fossils from the rock and plaster encasing them and then prepare them for study by scientists. Sometimes the fossils are from dinosaurs. This one is the front foot of a 67-million-year-old turtle.
While dinosaurs roamed the land in the Late Cretaceous, large reptiles called mosasaurs swam the seas. Tylosaurus prorigor grew to 43 feet long and weighed 2 tons. Like all mosasaurs, this one has a joint in its bottom jaw that would flex like a snake’s jaw to allow the animal to grasp large prey.
With its heavy jawbones and needlelike teeth, Xiphactinus audax was a voracious predator that lived in the Late Cretaceous, 90-65 million years ago. The creature grew to more than 12 feet long and weighed about 1,000 pounds.
In the Butterflies! exhibit, a lush tropical garden filled with plants and a multitude of live butterflies and moths offers a unique experience. This Atlas Moth is the largest moth in the world with a wingspan the size of a dinner plate.
Blue Morpho by Will KleinAcademy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Blue Morpho Rests on Visitor
Butterflies, like this blue morpho, sometimes land on unsuspecting visitors. They are quite harmless. The coloration of this butterfly looks completely different when its wings are open from when they are closed.
Can't get cuter than these hedgehogs
The Academy cares for about 100 live animals that cannot be released to the wild for one reason or another. Some are rehabilitated wildlife and others are unwanted pets in need of long-term care. The Academy provides them with top-notch veterinary care and enrichment. In return, the animals enrich our visitors' experiences.
The Academy’s live animals are an integral part of its educational programming both in the museum and at regional schools. They serve as nature’s ambassadors to the public.
Lubber Grasshopper by Meredit Dolan/ANSAcademy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
The dioramas illustrate the enormous variety of habitats and the wealth of wildlife the land supports. As human populations grow and develop the land, the fate of native plants and animals is often ignored. As a result, many of the species in the exhibits can only be seen in zoos and museums today.
Lion Diorama by MIke Servedio/ANSAcademy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Alpine Adaptations, Dall Sheep Diorama by MIke Servedio/ANSAcademy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Taxidermist Louis Paul Jonas (1894-1971) sculpts a body for use in the Academy’s Gorilla diorama, ca. 1934. Once completed, the skeleton was extracted and returned to the Mammal Collection. The gorilla’s skin was stretched over a papier-mâché cast of the body sculpture to create the final, lifelike display.
Sonoran Desert Diorama
A school group from Girard College in Philadelphia in the 1950s studies the Sonoran Desert diorama.
Outside In, a Discovery Center for Children
Designed for children ages 3–8 and their parents, Outside In is a welcoming hands-on discovery center where inquisitive youngsters can investigate a forest, visit the seashore, see and touch live animals, and more.
Tarzan and Jane in Outside In by Conrad ErbAcademy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Treasures from the Collections
In 2011 the Academy formed a ground-breaking affiliation with Drexel University, creating a scientific powerhouse. In 2012 the Academy celebrated its bicentennial with a yearlong exhibit that showcased highlights from its world-renowned collection of more than 18 million plant and animal specimens. The collection comprises a library of life and is used by researchers around the world to solve real-world problems.