With great caution, Philadelphia museums are looking to attract visitors after nearly two years – and more – of closures and disruption linked to the pandemic. However, the pandemic itself does not appear to be a major focus of exhibitions.

Water does, as several museums take its social and cultural measure in exhibits such as “Gideon Mendel: Drowning World” at the Academy of Natural Sciences, addressing the devastation of increasingly frequent catastrophic floods.

Flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida prevented the highly anticipated “Pool: A Social History of Segregation” from opening as scheduled on September 3 at the Fairmount Water Works. A postponed opening date was not set at the time of publication, but a virtual-only show is now live. At the Science History Institute, “Downstream” explores 200 years of analysis, protection and regulation of water.

Exhibits elsewhere address Ben Franklin, motherhood, the New Deal, and the many ways people around the world have adorned themselves over the ages. Check with the sites for current COVID-19 protocols.

South African photographer Gideon Mendel offers an austere portrait of the human condition and overwhelming climatic events around the world. (Until October 17, Drexel University Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215-299-1000, ansp.org) 🎟️ To buy tickets

How women fought and won the right to vote. (Until December 3, free, Parkway Central Branch, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901, rue de la vigne, 833-825-5357, freelibrary.org)

What better place to explore Franklin’s scientific achievements than in the Museum of the Learned Society he founded in 1743? Frankliniana’s APS collection is unprecedented, to say the least. (Until December 31, Museum of the American Philosophical Society, 104 S. Fifth St., 215-440-3400, amphilsoc.org)

The latest iteration of ‘Now / Next’, a pop-up exhibition gallery, takes an in-depth look at the secrets of these free-swimming marine animals through the lens of acclaimed National Geographic photographer and explorer Anand Varma – with live observation jellyfish from the moon. (Until December 31, Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th Street., 215-448-1200, fi.edu) 🎟️ To buy tickets

This exhibition highlights works of art and artifacts from the 1930s that show how workers shaped the country. (Until February 4, free, Dietrich Gallery, Free Library of Philadelphia, Central Branch, 1901, rue de la vigne, 833-825-5357, freelibrary.org)

Conceptions of things related to birth and reproduction – from breast pumps to IUDs. Although being born is a universal human experience, the conceptions that shape it are not and are rarely examined in a social or cultural way. (Until May 31, Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 S. 22nd Street., until November 14, Center for Architecture and Design, 1218 Arch Street, 215-560-8564, muttermuseum.org) 🎟️ To buy tickets

A multidisciplinary exhibit featuring performance and visual artists exploring the racial aspects of public swimming pools in Philadelphia and beyond. Among the artists involved are Homer Jackson, James Ijames, Carlo Rosa, Lowell Boston, Dylan B. Caleho and Modupeola Fadugba. The multimedia exhibit cannot open yet due to flooding at Kelly Pool House, but videos of the exhibit are available online at PoolPHL.com. Check the website for updates. (Kelly Pool House, Fairmount Water Works, 640 Waterworks Dr., 215-685-0723, poolphl.com)

A sort of history of water, this exhibition, lasting approximately 18 months, explores more than 200 years of analysis and protection of water in the United States. (Until mid-2023, Science History Institute, 315 Chestnut Street, 215-925-2222, storiescience.org)

The museum uses its vast array of clothing, jewelry, uniforms, badges and more to explore the styles and meanings of fashion and adornment across the millennia. The exhibit explores how people dressed for the ceremony, for example, featuring a traditional wedding attire of a Hopi bride (circa 1900) and the headdress of a 16th-century Buddhist priest from Nepal, as well as ritual objects and statues from Tibet ranging from the 14th to the early 20th centuries. (Sept. 25-June 12, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street, 215-898-4000, penn.museum)

A traveling exhibition based on the cinema classic. (From October 8 to January 16, The Please Touch Museum, 4231 Republic Avenue, 215-581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org)

With a zeal for historical research, Troiani devoted his career as a painter to portraying the real side of the War of Independence. This is the first exhibition of his work, which is often presented by the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution to convey verisimilitude. (Oct. 16-Sept. 5, 2022, Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. Third Street, 215-253-6731, amrevmuseum.org)

Graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1968, Watson is known for his murals at the Lawyer Church in Philadelphia. “Portals + Revelations” explores the artist’s creative evolution over his decades as an AAMP Artist in Residence. (21 Oct-6 March 2022, African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street, 215-574-0380, aampmuseum.org)

The Rosenbach Lectures, given by Michael F. Suarez, University of Virginia, will examine the networks that supported and built abolitionism at the turn of 18th-century Britain. (Oct 25, 26 and 28, 5:30 p.m., free, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, University of Pennsylvania, 3420, rue Noyer, 215-898-7555, library.upenn.edu) 🎟️ Register now

Centered on two micro-phenomena of water-snow crystals and diatoms, the exhibition will feature rare Victorian historical slides of diatoms by Harold Dalton, photomicrographs by Ukichiro Nakaya, contemporary ceramic sculptures by Margarita Hagan, and stop-motion images. by physicist Kenneth Liebbrecht. (November 13-April 17, Drexel University Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215-299-1000, ansp.org)

Researchers consider what is no longer here in light of its earlier presence in the pre-digital world for the 14th Annual Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age. The event is organized by the Free Library of Philadelphia Central Branch and the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. (November 17-20, online, 215-898-7555, library.upenn.edu) 🎟️ Register now

»READ MORE: For more information, check out our Complete Guide to the Fall Arts



Science: Museums don't have to be boring, they have lots of activities and show where we're going


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