The Franklin Institute Science Museum is one of the oldest science and technology museums in North America. It is operated by the Franklin Institute, a center for innovation in the study of the natural sciences, and promotes discovery and learning through hands-on exhibitions.
Museum in honor of Benjamin Franklin
The Franklin Institute Science Museum was founded in 1824 as the Franklin Institute to promote Mechanical Art. It was located in a building on 7th Street, which is now the Philadelphia Museum of History. The museum outgrew its original location and moved into its current home in Logan Square in the 1930s, a monumental neoclassical building designed by local architect John T. Windrim.
The museum is named after Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), Philadelphia’s most famous citizen. Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. But he was more than just a statesman: he was also a printer, writer, postmaster, diplomat, inventor and scientist. As a scientist, he is best known for his pioneering work in the field of electricity.
The entrance to the museum is through the building’s most impressive hall: the Rotunda, which was modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. The Rotunda is open to the public (no ticket required) and is home to the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, a giant marble statue of Benjamin Franklin. The statue was made in 1911 by James Earl Fraser James. The dimensions are really impressive: the statue has a height of 6 meters and weighs 27 tons. In 1972, the statue was designated the official national monument to Benjamin Franklin.
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Exhibits and exhibitions
Back in the 1930s, the Franklin Institute introduced hands-on science exhibits, and today’s museum continues the tradition with many interactive exhibits that invite visitors to follow in Benjamin Franklin’s footsteps — to experiment and explore. The permanent exhibits are located on two floors and are thematically organized.
On the same floor as the rotunda is the “Electricity” exhibition, which allows visitors to experiment with electricity. You can become a conductor and see how electricity is generated. Children can walk inside a giant heart, the dimensions of which correspond to the heart of a person 67 meters high.
The exhibition “Amazing Machines” shows the inner workings of household machines such as a drill. In the museum’s aviation department, you can learn about the principles of aeronautics, look at models, and test your piloting skills in a flight simulator.
You can climb the pendulum staircase, which is named after the Foucault pendulum, which is suspended here and demonstrates the rotation of the earth. On the lower floor is the Railroad Works, where you can see the massive Baldwin 60000 locomotive built in 1926 in Pennsylvania as an experimental train.
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The space hall where you can learn about the moon showcases a real moon rock and you can even touch a meteorite. The museum also houses the Fels Planetarium, one of the oldest planetariums in the US, as well as an IMAX theater and the Franklin Theater, where 3D projections can be seen.
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