The renowned but financially pinched Academy of Natural Sciences, the oldest institution of its kind in America, will soon become the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, according to a source familiar with talks between the institutions.

The partnership, which also will involve a local philanthropic organization, was to be announced at a news conference today, according to a source involved with the discussions.

The source insisted that the merger was not due to prior financial problems at the academy, which have caused layoffs and a 5 percent pay cut for employees in recent years, according to a published report.

But the historic institution, founded in 1812, will celebrate its 200th birthday next year in a structure built in 1876 and requiring major - and costly - renovations.

The academy's endowment fell from $64.7 million in 2007 to $47.4 million in 2009.

The academy is home not only to plant specimens collected by Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the American West in the early 1800s, but also more than 17 million cataloged natural-history specimens and artifacts.

It also is a world leader in biodiversity and environmental research.

Education is central to its mission, and the academy works with schools - including Drexel - and home-schooled families, conducts youth camps and provides resources for educators.

In its 2009 report, the academy said that it had undertaken a multiyear master plan for a major renovation of all its physical facilities.