Given that the Amazon is burning, again, glaciers are melting everywhere, the coral reefs are dying, and drought-fueled migration is on the rise across continents, it is probably no surprise that global climate change is a major subject at the area’s science and history museums.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the Penn Museum, and the American Swedish Historical Museum all directly or indirectly take on the causes and consequences of climate change in their exhibitions and programming this fall.
Elsewhere, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, associate justice of the Supreme Court, is the subject of a very personal exhibition at the National Museum of American Jewish History, and also the focus of a program at the National Constitution Center, where NCC chief Jeffrey Rosen will discuss his new book on the justice.
Between climate change and the Supreme Court, area institutions present their usual eclectic array of exhibitions — everything from how to survive most anything (“The Worst Case Scenario Survival Experience” at the Franklin Institute) to highlighting war on two continents (“Cost of Revolution” at the Museum of the American Revolution).
The Mütter Museum opens its most ambitious exhibit ever, “Spit Spreads Death,” on the flu pandemic of 1918-1919, a catastrophe for Philadelphia. And the Penn Museum reopens several renovated galleries.
Hostile Terrain 94: A Global Pop-Up Exhibition about America’s Humanitarian Crisis at the Southern Border (Sept. 23-27, Penn Museum). The participatory installation, a collaboration with the Wolf Humanities Center, pairs volunteers with staff to memorialize those who died in an effort to cross the southern border with Mexico. Working with visitors, “toe tags” will be affixed to a map of the Arizona-Mexico border in the exact locations where the corresponding bodies were found, providing a visual representation of the lives lost. (215-573-8280, wolfhumanities.upenn.edu)
Should Roe Be Overturned? (Sept. 24, 6:30-7:30 p.m., National Constitution Center). The NCC kicks off its fall “Town Hall” series with scholars and experts exploring the issue of reproductive rights. The series continues throughout the fall. (215-409-6600, constitutioncenter.org)
A Venturesome Spirit: Louis Magaziner in 20th Century Architecture (Sept. 25-Dec. 20, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia). Louis Magaziner, the first Jewish graduate of the School of Architecture at Penn, and his classmate, Julian F. Abele, the first African American graduate, shared friendship and influence. The exhibit examines their impact on Philadelphia, and more. (215-925-2688, philaathenaeum.org)
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Sept. 25, 7 p.m., Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University). Institutions around the U.S. are joining to screen this new environmental documentary, a cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive reengineering of the planet. Panel discussion with academy scientists to follow the screening. (215-299-1000, ansp.org)
Our Dogs, Ourselves: Alexandra Horowitz with James Serpell (Sept. 26, 6-7:30 p.m., Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia). The complexities of humans and dogs with author Horowitz and Penn ethicist Serpell. Book signing to follow. (215-763-6529, wagnerfreeinstitute.org)
Death Loves a Shining Mark: The Language of Mourning (Sept. 28, 3 p.m., Laurel Hill Cemetery). On this walking tour of the storied cemetery, visitors will hear about Victorian mourning customs and decipher the symbolic messages left behind in stone by Laurel Hill’s dearly departed. (215-228-8200, thelaurelhillcemetery.org)
Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier (Sept. 28-March 17, Museum of the American Revolution). The untold story of Irish soldier and artist Richard St. George, who endured personal trauma and untimely death, and whose life now offers a window into the entangled histories of the American Revolution of 1776 and the Irish Revolution of 1798. (215-253-6731, amrevmuseum.org)
Occupied Philadelphia: Living History Weekend (Sept. 28-29, Museum of the American Revolution). Historical interpreters, guided walking tours, special programming, and family-friendly activities explore what life was like in the city while British forces controlled it. (215-253-6731, amrevmuseum.org)
Nordic Changes (Sept. 29-Jan. 5, American Swedish Historical Museum). The transformation of the arctic as seen through the photographs and paintings of Philadelphia artist Dianne Burko, who has been witnessing climate change in the north for decades. (215-389-1776, americanswedish.org)
American Voyager: Herman Melville at 200 (Oct. 3-April 5, Rosenbach Museum and Library). Celebrating the bicentennial of Melville’s birth, the Rosenbach mounts an exhibition using its extensive Melville holdings and numerous loans. The show will examine how Melville fled to the sea to grasp core truths about American society and human nature. There’s also a marathon reading of Moby-Dick set for Nov. 9-10 at the Independence Seaport Museum. (215-732-1600, rosenbach.org)
Blooms & Bamboo: Chrysanthemum and Ikebana Sogetsu Artistry (Oct. 3-Nov. 17, Longwood Gardens). Longwood features masterworks of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. Two large-scale displays showcase bamboo and natural elements amidst the conservatory’s mass of thousands of blooming chrysanthemums trained into imaginative forms. (610-388-1000, longwoodgardens.org)
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Oct. 4-Jan. 12, National Museum of American Jewish History). Based on the book of the same name, “Notorious RBG” takes a personal and entertaining look at the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) and the Supreme Court. It will also examine her varied roles as a student, life partner, mother, change-making lawyer, judge, women’s rights pioneer, and pop-culture icon. (215-923-3811, nmajh.org)
Explore Philly’s Buried Past (Oct. 5, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Philadelphia Archaeological Forum). Local archaeologists will present the latest discoveries from the region as part of Pennsylvania Archaeology Month and International Archaeology Day. (phillyarchaeology.org)
Once Upon a Book (Oct. 12-Nov. 30, Free Library of Philadelphia Central Branch). The Delaware Valley Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers will be displaying pieces from their annual collaborative project, “Once Upon a Book," which features books for children that have been created, rebound, altered, or restored. (215-686-5322, freelibrary.org)
Flow (Oct. 12-Dec. 7, Independence Seaport Museum). Philadelphia Sculptors, together with the Dina Wind Art Foundation, collaborate with the museum to mount an exhibition of floating sculptural installations sited at Penn’s Landing. (215-413-8655, phillyseaport.org)
Lonnie G. Bunch III (Oct. 15, 6 p.m., Museum of the American Revolution). The secretary of the Smithsonian discusses his new book, A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump. (215-253-6731, amrevmuseum.org.)
Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia (opens Oct. 17, Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia). This ambitious exhibition explores what is arguably the greatest cataclysm in Philadelphia’s history: The deadly flu epidemic of 1918-1919, which took more than 20,000 lives. Interactive displays, photographs, and documents. On Sept. 28, the Mütter and British art collective Blast Theory mount a parade that honors the epidemic’s victims and heroes. (215-560-8564, muttermuseum.org)
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Experience (Oct. 19-April 19, Franklin Institute). Based on Philadelphia-based Quirk Books’ best-selling survival series, the world-premiere exhibit will feature a hands-on logical series of immersive challenges providing the essential instructions for surviving unexpected but possible real-life scenarios. Stay calm, be prepared, and jump the shark. (215-448-1200, www.fi.edu.)
Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law (Nov. 6, 6:30-7:30 p.m., National Constitution Center). Jeffrey Rosen, who runs the NCC, discusses his newest book, a kind of informal intellectual portrait of Justice Ginsburg, largely through her own words, spoken in conversations with Rosen going back nearly 30 years. (215-409-6600, constitutioncenter.org)
Ullyot Public Affairs Lecture: Roald Hoffmann (Nov. 14, 6-8 p.m., Science History Institute). An evening with Nobel laureate Roald Hoffmann, where he examines the many aspects of diversity in chemistry, biology, and the social sciences. (215-925-2222, sciencehistory.org)
Sphinx Gallery, Africa Galleries, Mexico and Central America Gallery Reopening (Nov. 16, Penn Museum). The museum, undergoing extensive renovation, will unveil several newly refurbished and reimagined galleries. (215-898-4000, www.penn.museum)
24 Hours of Reality: Truth in Action (Nov. 21, 6:30 p.m., Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University). Discussion led by academy scientists and a volunteer trained by Al Gore on steps to solve the climate crisis. (215-299-1000, ansp.org)