Move Over Harvard, Yale

By Carolyn Belardo

A new report on the nation’s best higher education natural history museums ranks the Academy as No. 2, largely for the public and student access to its world-renowned collections and scientists.

The recent announcement by Best College Reviews sandwiches the Academy between the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University at No. 1 and the Harvard Museum of Natural History at No. 3.

In compiling the list of the 30 most vibrant college and university natural history museums, the college review journal took into consideration the size of the museums’ collections, opportunities for college students, community involvement, and access to the general public.

“The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University offers students and visitors access to renowned collections containing more than 18 million specimens, including John James Audubon’s birds, Lewis and Clark’s plant collection, towering dinosaur skeletons, and an indoor tropical butterfly garden,” read Best College Reviews’ citation of the museum. “The Library and Archives at the Academy are internationally recognized for their rare and historic collections, with over 250,000 volumes dating back to the 1500’s.

“Students will benefit from the many volunteer internship opportunities that provide them with professional skills in various areas of museum operations and education,” the post went on to say. “Those who are interested in science can take advantage of the museum’s extensive collection and work alongside scientists in caring for the 18 million specimens the Academy has in its care.

“There is no doubt that the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is one of the top natural history museums in the nation.”

Learning about birds from Collection Manager Nate Rice
Learning about birds from Collection Manager Nate Rice

Academy President and CEO George W. Gephart, Jr. said that he couldn’t agree more.

“We are proud to be recognized for being a top university museum that connects the wonder of natural science with our students and also the region,” Gephart said.

Founded in 1812, the Academy is the oldest natural history museum in the Americas. Based in Philadelphia since its founding, it is a leading natural history museum dedicated to advancing research, education and public engagement in biodiversity and environmental science.

In 2011 the Academy and Drexel University formed a groundbreaking affiliation that led to the creation of the Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science.

BEES offers two environmental science summer programs for rising high school juniors and seniors.

Students in the BEES program enjoy access to the Academy’s 18 million plant and animal research specimens and Library and Archives resources. The Academy’s top curators and scientists are professors at Drexel and students are afforded opportunities for field research and cooperative education internships at the museum.

“BEES provides unprecedented access to the Academy’s research and collections for university students,” said David Velinsky, PhD, BEES head, the Academy’s vice president for science and Ruth Patrick Chair in environmental science. “This connection has made a definitive enhancement to the interaction and education of our students.”


Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences BEES program offers two environmental science summer programs for rising high school juniors and seniors. To learn more, visit the website.

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