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Outside In Reopens, Dioramas Sparkle, Bug Fest, Extended Hours 

What’s new at the Academy of Natural Sciences this summer  

PHILADELPHIA, July 7, 2021

Visitors to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University this summer can once again enjoy close encounters with live animals, enlightening exploration in Outside Incrisper windows into popular dioramas, and access oan additional weekday. 

Plus, Bug Fest is back for the 14th year with a hybrid of virtual programs in August, as well as in-person activities and creepy-crawly insect displays from Friday through Sunday, Aug. 13-15. Bug Fest is the Academy’s most popular festivalthough this year the in-museum offerings are a bit scaled back in line with museum health and safety protocols. 

With the easing of pandemic restrictions in the city and state, the museum has added Wednesday to its schedule and is now open Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 9-10 a.m. is reserved for membersFace coverings are still required of visitors and staff for the peace of mind of all, and advance reservations by timed ticketing are encouraged. 

“While the museum is not fully back to its pre-COVID-19 daysour staff is full speed ahead on refreshing our signature exhibits, reimagining our galleries and developing new experiences to engage both children and adults in a wide range of hands-on natural sciences activities,” said Marina McDougall, the Academy’s interim chief learning and engagement officer. 

Outside In — Refreshed for Adults Too 

Closed since March 2020, Outside In has taken longer to reopen than other parts of the museum because of the hands-on, personal experiences and close encounters with staff and live animals that it offers young children. Staff used the down time to rethink and refresh the gallery, second only to Dinosaur Hall in the favorite category.


And now adults of all ages will discover new elements designed to engage older audiences, along with the kids. 

“We made the space more friendly and safe, with the ease and health of visitors in mind,” said Karen Verderame, live animal programs developer. “All the best things our guests love will still be there. And there will also be more live animals to learn about, a new working beehive, an updated microscope station, new books that explore nature, and a huge space for our tortoise and armadillos and other animals to play and regale our guests.” 

And there will be cool new animal skulls. 

When Outside In reopens Wednesday, July 28, it also brings a raft of new programming centered around the animals and designed to inspire not only children but also teens and adults. “We want people of all ages to experience eureka moments, just as our younger guests have for so many years here.” 

Dioramas — Glass and Eyeballs Cleaned and Polished  

The burly crew attached special giant suction cups to the moose, beaver and pigeon’s windows into the museum and gingerly did a heave-ho. “Each glass plate weighs hundreds of pounds and had to be manually lifted out and onto the carpet," said Jennifer Sontchi, senior director of exhibits and public spaces. “I held my breath the whole time.” 

On June 22 the exhibits team and their hired hands removed the glass sheets entombing the Academy’s iconic moose diorama, installed in 1939, passenger pigeon diorama, from 1949, and beaver dioramafrom 1955. They cleaned and polished the thick glass and spruced up whatever animals, plants and scenery they could reach without stepping into the fragile exposed nature habitats. Eyeballs got the most thorough treatment. 

“While it’s natural for animals to get dirty, it’s not natural to have dusty eyeballs. Their eyes sparkle with life now,” said Sontchi, tossing the cleaning rags to a pile. 

How did they choose which three dioramas to clean the glass of out of more than 30 realistic nature scenes throughout the museum? “The staff got to choose their favorites. And the beaver diorama was chosen because kids love it; they recognize the Pennsylvania animals in there,” said Sontchi.  

Removing the glass plate sealing a diorama costs thousands of dollars in labor and time. Staff is already picking their next favorite dioramas to get the treatment, once funds become available. 

Bug Fest in August 

Celebrate all the many-legged movers and shakers of the world at the annual Bug Fest, the Academy’s most popular festival. This August features a variety of virtual events on Zoom and Facebook, plus in-museum insect displays and activities Friday through Sunday, Aug. 13-15. Participate in a Q&A with Academy entomologists and have all the questions that "bug" you answered. Enjoy a Creature Features Live show, get a closer look at the Academy’s many live bugs and marvel at the amazing Entomology Collection. In-museum displays and activities are scaled back this year as the museum continues to steadily ramp up and host more visitors. Visit for a list of Bug Fest in-person and virtual activities for the whole family.


Special Exhibits 


Permian Monsters: Life Before the DinosaursThrough Jan. 17, 2022  

Step back 290 million years to when bizarre-looking creatures dominated life on land and sea, and dinosaurs had not yet evolved. Permian Monsters blends vivid artwork, amazing fossils and scientifically accurate models of moving beasts to recreate this relatively unknown period when the greatest mass extinction wiped out creatures that will never be discovered.  


Gideon Mendel: Drowning WorldThrough Oct. 17, 2021  

Drowning World is a unique photographic exploration of flooding, a stark portrayal of the human condition within the context of overwhelming climate events around the world. The exhibition features 37 photographs, videos and a found-object display by leading contemporary photographer Gideon Mendel of South Africa. Drowning World includes color images of some of the poorest and some of the wealthiest communities in the U.S. and around the world, all exposed to the floodwater that envelops them. In this moment the floods are a leveling factor, and people are brought together in visual solidarity.



For images, visit the Press Room or contact the Public Relations Office. 

News media contact: 
Carolyn Belardo, Director of Public Relations, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University  
215-299-1043,, | Twitter @AcadNatSciPR | Press Room: