The Wagner Free Institute of Science, the creation of Philadelphia merchant, philanthropist, and gentleman scientist William Wagner (1796–1885), is a natural history museum that provides free public education in science. Wagner began offering free lectures on science at his home in the 1850s. Today the Wagner continues to offer free science education in a National Historic Landmark building that houses an extraordinary collection of natural history specimens including mounted birds and mammals, fossils, insects, dinosaur bones, and the first American saber-toothed tiger specimen.
In recent years, the Center has supported the Wagner's ambitions to develop new strategic alliances with partnering institutions and to respond to increased visitation and interest from younger audiences. With a 2013 Center grant, the Wagner will pilot new interpretive approaches, with and for young adult audiences. The project will build connections between 19th-century natural history collections and contemporary issues, including climate change, human evolution, and the rapid extinction rate of many species.