Specimen Stories: Experiments in Historical Interpretation

Wagner Free Institute of Science



Bird case in the Wagner’s exhibition hall. Photo by David Graham.

With original displays that date back to the 19th century and more than 100,000 natural science specimens in its collections, the Wagner Free Institute of Science is a Victorian time capsule. Specimen Stories, a new pilot program, will assess the value and success of creative interpretive approaches with and for young adults—the Wagner's fastest growing audience in recent years. This iterative project will test drive activities such as scavenger hunts and a "guest curator" program, allowing visitors the freedom to interact with the institute's collections without diminishing the essential experience of self-discovery. These strategic experiments will also seek to build audience understanding of how specimens are linked to hot-button contemporary issues, such as climate change, human evolution, and growing extinction rates. The Wagner will put out a call to young audiences through social media platforms, targeting local college students specifically, to be co-investigators in this process and to solicit their input on a regular basis.