Without doubt, the big news in the world of Philadelphia-area museums this spring is the grand opening of the Museum of the American Revolution.
Decades in the dreaming and in the making, the $120 million Robert A.M. Stern museum at Third and Chestnut Streets will be the only full-scale museum in the area - and possibly in the world - devoted to the American Revolution.
But the museum is not the only huge project slated for completion this spring. The $90 million Longwood Gardens fountain and garden refurbishment is in the home stretch and will open to the public May 27.
Elsewhere, the region's nonart museums will offer an eclectic array of exhibitions, ranging from luxuriously colorful presentations of frogs to a close look at the impact of war in the Middle East and an examination of monstrous human abnormalities.
Skål! Scandinavian Spirits (through Sept. 17, American Swedish Historical Museum). The drinking culture and traditions of Scandinavia. The Norse god Odin was credited with teaching humans how to brew beer, and the rest, as they say, is history. (215-389-1776, americanswedish.org)
Recent Acquisitions from the Bequest of Maurice Sendak (through April 30, Rosenbach Museum and Library). Prints and illustrations by William Blake, illustrated books by Beatrix Potter and three-dimensional book artist Lothar Meggendorfer, and rare editions by celebrated American writers Herman Melville and Henry James. (215-732-1600, rosenbach.org)
Shawn Theodore: Church of Broken Pieces (through April 2, African American Museum in Philadelphia). Theodore presents a photographic exploration of the psychic, physical, and technological transmutation of black America. (215-574-0380, aampmuseum.org)
Sex on the Reef (Feb. 16, Wagner Free Institute of Science). Once a year, entire reefs release reproductive matter into the ocean. Though this synchronized spawning is thought to be driven by lunar cycles and water temperature, much is a mystery. Alison Sweeney of Penn explains. (215-763-6529, wagnerfreeinstitute.org)
American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (March 3-July 16, National Constitution Center). The center's fascinating exploration of America's fraught love affair with whiskey will return briefly after a national tour. A town hall kicks it off March 2. (215-409-6600, constitutioncenter.org)
Imperfecta: Monstrosity Through the Ages (Opens March 10, for at least two years; Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia). Using artifacts from the Historical Medical Library and Mütter Museum collections, this exhibition examines human abnormalities and their causes, from early beliefs in folklore and magic to later scientific and medical fact. (215-560-8564, muttermuseum.org)
Citizen Artists: World War I and the Creative Economy (March 11-12, Historical Society of Pennsylvania). In conjunction with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts' current exhibition on World War I, the society is hosting a two-day symposium examining creative work by American artists and citizens before, during, and after the war. (215-732-6200, hsp.org)
Strange Beauty: Botanical Collecting in the Victorian Tropics (March 16, Wagner Free Institute of Science). Elaine Ayers will share stories of middle-class female collectors who went to great lengths back in the day to collect, preserve, and display tropical plants - moss, orchids, carnivorous pitcher plants, and the giant corpse flower. (215-763-6529, wagnerfreeinstitute.org)
1917: How One Year Changed the World (March 17-July 16, the National Museum of American Jewish History). This exhibition explores three key events of 1917: America's entry into World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the signing of the Balfour Declaration, which proclaimed British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. (215-923-3811, nmajh.org)
Becoming the Detective: The Making of a Genre (April 8-Sept. 1, Rare Book Department, Parkway Central Library). One of three programs (one is a theater production) from the Free Library exploring the detective story. This one focuses on the rise of the mystery in books, movies, and board games. (215-686-5322, freelibrary.org)
Clever Criminals and Daring Detectives (April 8- Sept. 1, Rosenbach Museum and Library). This exhibition presents real and fictional criminal and detective characters across a wide literary and historical landscape. (215-732-1600, rosenbach.org)
Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq (April 8-Nov. 25, 2018, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology). This exhibition focuses on the ongoing cultural destruction in the Middle East and what's being done to prevent the loss of history and cultural identity. (215-898-4000, penn.museum)
In the Artifact Lab: Conservation in Action (April 8-indefinitely, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology). The museum's artifact lab reopens. Museum conservators will concentrate on ancient art and artifacts of the Middle East. (215-898-4000, penn.museum)
Designing for the Dead: The Art and Architecture of Laurel Hill Cemetery (April 8, Laurel Hill Cemetery). Such noted architects as John Notman, William Strickland, Frank Furness, John J. McArthur, C.C. Zantzinger, Horace Trumbauer, and Napoleon LeBrun all are featured at Laurel Hill. This tour will look at their work and that of artists including Alexander Milne Calder, his son Alexander Stirling Calder, and sculptor Harriet Frishmuth. (215-228-8200, thelaurelhillcemetery.org)
Rachmaninoff's Philadelphia (April 18, Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Philadelphia Orchestra principal guest conductor Stéphane Denève and other presenters explore the special relationship between the orchestra and Sergei Rachmaninoff. (215-732-6200, hsp.org)
The Museum of the American Revolution grand opening (April 19). The climax of the core exhibition will be a dramatic display of George Washington's field tent, snug in its own gallery behind bulletproof glass. But the tent is only one of thousands of evocative artifacts. Everything from William Waller's powder horn to William B.T. Trego's 1883 painting The March to Valley Forge will be used to tell the story of how the nation was born. (215-253-6731, amrevmuseum.org)
Philadelphia Science Festival (April 21-29, Franklin Institute). The festival returns for its seventh year. More than 80 events will span nine days, collectively illuminating the role of science and technology in today's world. (215-448-1200, fi.edu)
Main Fountain Garden reopening (May 27, Longwood Gardens). After three years of construction - plus installation of new computerized LED lighting, water jets, and pipes; revitalized stonework; and rebuilding and conservation of walls, balustrades, and sculptures - the grand central garden at Longwood in Kennett Square will at last reopen. It is the largest construction project in Longwood's history. (610-388-1000, longwoodgardens.org)
A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature (May 29-Sept. 4, Franklin Institute). This exhibition features an elaborate mirror maze that allows exploration of a seemingly infinite repeating pattern of mirrors. Math is all around us. (215-448-1200, fi.edu)