Wagner Free Institute of Science

NUC Symbol: PPWa
1700 Montgomery Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19121
215-763-6529, ext. 12 voice
215-763-1299 fax

Tuesday-Friday, 9 AM-4 PM by appointment


Chartered in 1855, The Wagner Free Institute of Science is a natural history museum and educational institution devoted to providing free public education in the sciences. It occupies its original building, completed in 1865, which remains virtually unchanged since the 1890s. The Library contains some 45,000 volumes on the natural and physical sciences, metallurgy, education, medicine, archaeology and anthropology, the pseudo-sciences, instrument building, and photography from the seventeenth to the early-twentieth centuries. The collection reflects the Institute's curriculum of courses over its history and the research interests of its faculty and staff. The holdings of the Library mirror the Institute's mission. The William Wagner Collection (collected by the Institute’s founder) contains 3,000 volumes and includes rare editions of eighteenth and nineteenth century works on literature and history in addition to natural science. The Library also oversees the Archives, which comprises the family, personal, and business papers of William Wagner and records of the Institute’s founding and early years. The manuscript collections contain correspondence of notable scientists, such as Joseph Leidy, Edward Drinker Cope, Constantine S. Rafinesque, Angelo Heilprin, and Samuel George Gordon. The Library also includes maps, prints, photographs, drawings, and glass lantern slides that illustrated the early course lectures.