The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is the oldest natural history museum in North America. Founded in 1812, the museum is known for both its collections of natural specimens and its active research faculty. It has been affiliated with Drexel University since 2011. The Academy’s collections contain more than 18 million specimens and archival materials, many of which predate the institution’s founding and reflect the work of famous naturalists and scientists, including Thomas Jefferson, John James Audubon, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark.
An immersive new media exhibition will animate the research of six scientists from the Academy of Natural Sciences’ Patrick Center for Environmental Research and highlight the scientific, historical, and social contexts of water in the Philadelphia area. Theater director and Pew Fellow Whit MacLaughlin and artist and creative researcher Janani Balasubramanian will create a hybrid physical and online storytelling experience using original music, sound design, and audio from the scientists, who focus on research areas such as the impact of climate change on coastal landscapes, stream chemistry, and the relationship between humans and water. The audio series will be accessible through phone numbers embedded in physical markers situated around the city and in maps illustrated with overlaying features of the Delaware River Watershed, Philadelphia streets, drainage systems, and primordial waterways that lie deep underground. Audiences will be able to experience the audio pieces at home, outdoors as they explore Philadelphia, and inside the Academy of Natural Sciences.
The total grant amount represents project funding plus an additional 20% in unrestricted general operating support.