It is with much regret that we read Karen Heller's misleading and inaccurate column on the Franklin Institute ("Dumbing down of science," July 28).
The Franklin Institute's mission is to inspire a passion for learning about science and technology. It is easier to achieve our mission with a building full of people. We have much for the hard-core science enthusiast, as well as people who might not normally go to a science museum. Instead of "dumbing down" science, we are reaching out in as many ways as possible to connect the public to the excitement of science.
The heart of Heller's many complaints seems to be the price of admission, which we would like to point out is inclusive of our exhibits, live science demonstrations, planetarium shows, etc. Government funding for cultural institutions simply doesn't exist at the level it did 25 years ago. The Franklin's pricing is comparable to other national- and international-class science museums, although we are proud to showcase larger and more significant exhibits at similar admission fees. For example, the American Museum of Natural History exhibit mentioned, "The Horse," is close in price to our National Geographic exhibit "Real Pirates," but Heller failed to mention that their show is one-third the size of ours.
Considered one of the premier science institutions in the United States, the Franklin in recent years has brought to Philadelphia a series of special exhibits that have had an economic impact of $200 million. Admission revenue supplements a series of less high-profile endeavors, including lowered or free admission for more than 300,000 school children (50,000 are free) and an array of community outreach initiatives. We strive to create visitor experiences that bring people here again and again, making science accessible, informative and, yes, from time to time, entertaining.
Dennis M. Wint
President and CEO
The Franklin Institute