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Academy of Natural Sciences

Ben Franklin Parkway 19
Academy of Natural Sciences
Ben Franklin Parkway 01
a Parkway scene

At the corner of 19th and Race Streets stands the Academy of Natural Sciences, the oldest institution of its kinds in America, founded in 1812. The Academy, one of Philadelphia's most active and progressive museums, houses cases of stuffed birds and animals displayed in backgrounds simulating their natural habits, fossils-including a collection of Thomas Jefferson's — models of extinct animals, insects and shells. An exhibit such as "What's inside a python?" shows the skeletal structure without the skin. A show stopping sign says: "Look." When the viewer looks into the glass the size of an eye, he is gazing into the eye of an owl! The gems, minerals, fluorescent minerals are alone worth a visit. The Academy, like the Franklin Institute, endeavors to make natural science a simple, understandable thing on an everyday level, explaining it in a way that relates to the world around us.

Leaving the Academy of Natural Sciences, cross 19th Street, walk along to 18th and then cross that street. At the Embassy Suites Hotel, there is another sculpture worthy of note. At the rear of the building, on the point of land where Cherry Street crosses the Parkway, we find the handsome sculpture-fountain by Oskar Stonorov and Jorio Vivarelli, with water cascading over a male figure holding a young girl aloft, as two others prepare to help lift her from the pool below. This is an example of the benefits of the Philadelphia one-percent-of-building-costs rule. This city regulation commits architects and builders to set aside that percentage for decoration — sculpture, a mural, bas relief — on buildings constructed within the city limits. It is responsible for some of the more exciting contemporary art seen on or in our new buildings.

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