The museums of Philadelphia are noted for both their variety and their longevity. Some of these institutions have been present since before the American Revolution and reflect the continuity within a population for which education was always a predominant goal. Others have arisen over subsequent centuries in response to various needs. Some, such as the American Philosophical Society and the Fairmont Water Works, are eighteenth-century institutions that relatively lately acquired a more formal museum format. Colonial interest in natural history, mineralogy, and natural resources with collateral maps and papers makes them a prime resource for historians of geology. All of these institutions reflect the nature of the museum movement itself from often private or privileged collections to those both welcoming the public and serving as sturdy arms of education. Historians of geology will find maps, instruments, collections, books, and personal and government papers that are of much interest.
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Museums at the Forefront of the History and Philosophy of Geology: History Made, History in the Making
Natural history museums have evolved over the past 500 years to become vanguards of science literacy and thus institutions of democracy. Curiosity about nature and distant cultures has proven to be a powerful lure, and museums have progressively improved public engagement through increasingly immersive exhibits, participation in field expeditions, and research using museum holdings, all facilitated by new technology. Natural history museums have dispersed across the globe and demonstrated that public fascination with ancient life, vanished environments, exotic animals in remote habitats, cultural diversity, and our place in the cosmos is universal. This volume samples the story of museum development and illustrates that the historical successes of natural history museums have positioned them to be preeminent facilitators of science literacy well into the future.