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Wagner Free Institute of Science is a time machine

April 30, 2010

This just in from the Wagner Free Institute of Science — a Victorian science museum frozen in time, but savvy about being relevant in the 21st century.

An appreciative audience enjoys "Science on Tap"

Monday, May 10 at 6pm don’t miss their “Science on Tap” program at National Mechanics (22 S. Third Street) where you can sip a favorite brew and hear Derek Pitts talk about “The Search for the Other Earth,” then debate your friends about whether alien women could ever really look anything like they do in those old “Star Trek” episodes.

Not to be missed on Thursday, May 20 @ 5:30 (1700 W. Montgomery Avenue @ N. 17th Street near Temple) is the engaging Michael Lewis exploring the creative mind that designed Philadelphia’s wedding cake of a City Hall structure.  For more details, see below from the Wagner website or click the image of City Hall under construction to be taken to Wagner directly.

City Hall, Philadelphia, PA. Southeast Pavillion Under Construction, 1881. Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)

It is difficult to believe that two of Philadelphia’s most beloved buildings – City Hall and the Wagner Free Institute of Science – are the work of the same architect.

The one is a swaggering Baroque essay in civic pride, groaning with sculpture, while the other is a subdued and stately temple of science.  Yet together they suggest the enormous range of John McArthur, Jr., one of Philadelphia’s most influential and yet least known architects.  This lecture will look at the life and work of McArthur, his birth in Scotland, and his early training at the Carpenter’s Company, and show images of the houses, banks, hospitals, and hotels that sustained his career.

It will reveal the architect to be a far more complex and enigmatic figure than is commonly thought, and hint at why the poet Walt Whitman would call McArthur’s City Hall “silent, weird, beautiful.”

Michael J. Lewis is the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art at Williams College. The recent recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he is the author of numerous scholarly articles and books, including Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (W. W. Norton) and The Gothic Revival (Thames & Hudson). He writes widely on art and culture, and his essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Atlantic Monthly.

From Specimen Days, by Walt Whitman

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2010 12:58 pm

    Oh, man. Science on tap. Combines two of my favorite things! Wish we had that in our little burg.

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      April 30, 2010 1:26 pm

      Well, follow the Mets for awhile and then take a detour. First round’s on me!

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