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Permanent Exhibition

J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia
Masks are preferred for all museum visitors.
For more information, please visit our COVID-19 Information page.

We are—and are surrounded by—stuff. Whether it’s the blood in our veins, the oxygen we breathe, or the clothes that keep us warm and dry, our lives are made and shaped by matter, materials, and things.

But how did we come to know this material world? What tools, techniques, and tests help curious people understand the stuff of the world? And how has that knowledge in turn influenced our experiences of the world—for better, and sometimes for worse?

The museum’s permanent exhibition is a journey through more than 500 years of scientific inquiry into the material world. Visitors will encounter science in the laboratory and factory, in the home and classroom, on television and in books, in the sky and underground. This exhibition reveals the scientific understanding of matter and materials behind objects as diverse as party dresses, batteries, and radios. It explores the scientific knowledge and technological changes that have given us cleaner air, safer foods, and effective vaccines.

No matter how much or how little you know about the history of science, our permanent exhibition will give you new perspectives on the stuff that’s in and around you.  

Object Explorer

What do a flip-flop, an ice-cube tray, a soda bottle, and a lightbulb have in common? Check out the interactive Object Explorer and find out!

Wherever you are right now, chances are you are near something with a surprising—and hidden—science story. The Object Explorer asks you to look closer at everyday objects, such as a rubber flip-flop, a frozen ice cube, a plastic soda bottle, or an LED lightbulb. These ordinary things are made of extraordinary materials, which have come to shape contemporary life. Place an object on the interactive table and unlock stories of the object’s history and the sometimes miraculous, sometimes menacing materials it is made of.

Be sure to pause before the vertical video column to delve deeper into our rich object, manuscript, and image collections. Many of the items featured on the column have never been on display.

Admission is free. Get hours, directions, and information to plan your visit.