Beneath a towering marble dome sits the 20-foot-high marble statue of Benjamin Franklin. All is quiet—until the multimedia presentation springs to life. Not content with a silent symbol, The Franklin Institute brings its namesake’s story to life with his National Memorial, complete with audio effects and dramatic lighting. Spanning three floors, the Institute gives a voice to human ingenuity—past and future—with hundreds of interactive exhibits, live science shows, a 3D flight simulator, and 4.5-story IMAX theater. Though now filled with a range of space-age attractions, the Institute began with single purpose.
Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating established The Franklin Institute in 1824, to honor the life and achievements of Benjamin Franklin. In the following decades, the Institute hosted forward thinkers such as Nikola Tesla, who gave a demonstration on wireless telegraphy in 1893. In 1930, the board decided to expand the space into a new science museum—and raised the funds in 12 days. The museum opened to the public in 1934—and in the same year hosted the first public demonstration of an all-electronic TV system.
The Franklin Institute’s permanent exhibits now include Space Command, which invites visitors to recover an unmanned space probe and examine real astronaut equipment. At Changing Earth, visitors create their own weather patterns, play with steams of water, and build structures that can stand up to earthquakes or all-elephant 5Ks.
At various daily showtimes, the Franklin Theater’s high-contrast screen displays 3D films on animals, earth ecosystems, and human history. In the recently renovated Fels Planetarium audiences witness projections of weather and space spread across a 60-foot seamless aluminum dome.