The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Young visitors observe a diorama of Dall’s Sheep in their natural habitat. Image: Jeff Fusco, Courtesy of ANS

Academy scientists electrofishing at Cobbs Creek near Havertown, PA., to monitor fish populations and species abundance for a long-term survey. Image: Sylvan Klein, Courtesy of ANS

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Philadelphia, PA

Museum / Cultural Institution

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (ANS) was the first ever natural history museum in the United States and continues to fulfil its foundational vision of advancing research, education, and public engagement in biodiversity and environmental science. A fixture of Philadelphia’s cultural and hard sciences landscape, ANS is home to a much beloved museum where visitors can see real dinosaur fossils, live animals, and exhibits focused on showcasing the diversity and beauty of the natural life that populates our planet. ANS is also home to a world-class research institute where scientists investigate critical issues spanning the fields of biodiversity, evolution, and environmental science. Scientists often venture out into the field—sometimes locally and other times to places as far away as Vietnam to study animal and plant populations in their environments. The impressive and expansive collection contains a wealth of preserved specimens.  

Our recommendation report lays out a new institutional curatorial strategy, including a series of spatial interventions and a robust membership program that can be gradually rolled out in the coming years, particularly geared toward better connecting ANS with millennial and Gen Z audiences. DVDL conducted horizon scans and internal workshops with ANS leadership and staff to help determine the most salient opportunities and challenges for the institution’s future. We situated these findings within a broader cultural context through a series of behavioral and cultural forecasts, as well as design and peer analyses.

“As our team was reimagining all the traditional aspects of our institution, David helped us see that a series of fairly small temporary interventions could offer high-impact, low-cost ways of engaging people. We hired David and his team to develop these interventions, and came away with a solid plan for implementation. In a collaborative process around the future of culture and the future of behavior, DVDL developed a roadmap for us that is highly flexible, open-ended, and participatory.” – Scott Cooper, President & CEO, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Cultural Forecasting

-Intuitive assessments from a cultural and institutional context
-Horizon scans with qualitative and quantitative research and context interpretation
-Future scenarios and impact assessment

Institutional and Program Strategies

– Peer/competitive analysis
– Expert advisory group workshops
– Program strategy development

Design Process Development

– Masterplan development
– Space program development

Visitors enjoy The Academy’s monthly Dinos After Dark program, a pay-as-you-wish admission and cash bar and snacks. Image: Mike Servedio, courtesy of ANS.