Civil War, spies among spring topics at area museums

Posted: January 29, 2013

Museumgoers will have the opportunity to brush up on a lot of dramatic American history around town this spring, with major exhibitions and events covering the Civil War, U.S. spycraft, the countercultural epicenter of 1968, the antilynching writer Ida B. Wells, and the black presence on the Delaware River - as both cargo and seafarers.

In addition, the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, which originally blasted through town two years ago, is back for a month from the end of March to the end of April.

      - Stephan Salisbury, Inquirer culture writer

"1968" National Constitution Center. The Constitution Center will revisit one of the nation's most tumultuous years in a major exhibition put together largely by the Minnesota History Center. Vietnam, black power, mind-bending music and behavior, constitutional challenges - 1968 had 'em all. June 14-Sept. 2. (215-409-6600 or

"Spy: The Secret World of Espionage" Franklin Institute. It's billed as an "interactive family-friendly exhibit" that will "put you face-to-face with the secret truth" of the CIA and espionage. Declassified artifacts include a robotic dragonfly and the ice axe that killed Leon Trotsky. May 4-Oct.6. (215-448-1200 or

"Unearthing a Masterpiece: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel" Penn Museum. This large, well-preserved floor mosaic was excavated at Lod in 2009. Richly detailed, the piece is more than 2,000 years old; it cannot be determined whether the owner was a pagan, a Jew, or a Christian. Feb. 10-May 19. (215-898-4000 or

International Orchid Show The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. For the first time, the academy hosts an international orchid show and sale featuring more than 30 exhibits, in collaboration with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Orchid Society. April 12-14 (215-299-1000 or

"Through the Looking Lens: Cornelius Varley's Wondrous Images of Art and Science, 1800-1860" American Philosophical Society. Varley's watercolors of microscopic plants, recently re-discovered in the society's collections, present magnified images of algae that take the viewer inside, revealing circulation of fluids. May 17-Dec. 29. (215-440-3400 or

"X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out" Chemical Heritage Foundation. Elegant research X-rays of fish demonstrate intricate bio-architecture. Into June (215-925-2222 or

Antique lightning rods Franklin Institute. Eight antique lightning rods from the collection of Joshua Sapan will be on display in the institute's "Electricity" exhibition. The rods date from the 18th through the mid-20th century. Through Dec. 31. (215-448-1200 or

"Ida B. Wells, Lynching and Trayvon Martin" Moonstone Arts Center. Ida B. Wells was a powerful voice in the antilynching, anti-Jim Crow, and women's movements well into the 20th century. Moonstone will present films, panels, lectures and readings citywide occasioned by the 150th anniversary of her birth. Through Feb. 3. (215-735-9600 or

Philadelphia Science Festival The Franklin Institute is a founding sponsor of this fast-growing annual event. Debates, lectures, demonstrations, projects, workshops, and other activities citywide. April 18-28 (215-448-2366 or

"Glow: Living Lights" Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Using video, models, and live and preserved critters, the exhibition explores the world of fireflies, glowworms, and weird sea creatures. June 1-Sept. 29 (215 299-1000 or

"Voices of 1863: Witnesses to the Civil War" Rosenbach Museum and Library. From the Emancipation Proclamation to the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, 1863 was a year of momentous drama. Letters, dispatches, firsthand accounts of Lincoln and private citizens bring it all vividly to life. May 1-Jan. 5, 2014. (215-732-1600 or

"Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River" Independence Seaport Museum. First-person accounts, interactive exhibits, and authentic artifacts tell a story central to Philadelphia, the nation, and the idea of freedom. May 3 through 2014 (215-413-8655 or

Philadelphia Book Festival Free Library of Philadelphia. Author, author! The seventh annual festival features authors at every library in the system, as well as at the Central Library - Cheryl Strayed, Vali Nasr, Nancy Pearl, Ken Kalfus, and many more. April 15-19.

"The Morgue, the Merrier: The Science of the Living Dead" Laurel Hill Cemetery. Talk by Harvard's Steven Schlozman, author of Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks From the Apocalypse, plus a live zombie autopsy, zombie body-part scavenger hunt, and related activities. Not recommended for those under 21. April 27. (215-228-8200 or

"Celebrating 10 years as the Museum of 'We the People' " National Constitution Center. The Constitution Center marks its 10th anniversary on July 4. Exhibitions, events, and educational programs will pop up throughout 2013. (215-409-6600 or

"Mutter150" Mütter Museum. This home of medical and scientific marvels and curiosities, some of them unspeakable, celebrates its 150th anniversary. Free admission, a ceremony, presentations in the Thompson Gallery. Reservations recommended. March 2-3 (215-563-3737 or

"Beyond Swastika & Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges" National Museum of American Jewish History. A traveling exhibition highlighting the important and little-known story of Jewish scholars who fled Nazi persecution and found homes at historically black colleges in the segregated South. Through June 2. (215-923-3811 or

Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia Multiple venues and Fairmount Park. When the cherry trees bloom, the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia celebrates with drumming, martial arts, origami and other craft demonstrations, dining, music, and more. April 1-26 (215-790-3810 or

"Reinventing the Row Home for Energy Efficient Living" Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent. To meet the challenges of the next hundred years, the venerable and iconic city rowhouse must become more energy efficient. Exhibit mounted by the Energy Coordinating Agency, a local nonprofit, shows how this is happening. To midsummer. (215-685-4830 or

"Not Just for Children: The Art of Robert Lawson" Free Library of Philadelphia Central Library. Drawings, prints, and books exhibiting the work of the noted children's book illustrator ( The Story of Ferdinand, Mr. Popper's Penguins) prominent in the first half of the 20th century. Through May 3. (215-686-5322 or

"Skinned, Stuffed and Mounted: Taxidermy History and How-to," Wagner Free Institute of Science. A presentation and talk on the fine art of stuffing critters by Rachel Poliquin, author of The Breathless Zoo, and Beth Beverly, local artist and taxidermist. April 21. (215-763-6529 or

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or

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