At The Wagner Free Institute

Wagner InstituteSome of our most familiar descriptions of places carry unpleasant baggage. “Philadelphia’s best-kept secrets,” for instance. It’s a phrase that shrugs smugness and flaunts ignorance.

Well, ignorance shouldn’t be flaunted, or excused.

Nonetheless, “best-kept secret” remains apt for the Wagner Free Institute of Science, an off-the-beaten-track gem of a museum at 17th and Montgomery. The Wagner’s hours don’t usually extend to the weekend, so this Saturday and Sunday is special for that. And there’s also an unusual collaboration with Peregrine Arts. The result promises to be a unique musical experience entitled “The Order of Things.”

If you watch this brief video you’ll learn the Wagner is all about order. Its collection is literally a manifestation of the overpowering 19th-century urge to order things (which number about 100,000 at the Wagner). In its gallery – one of this city’s truly unique spaces – nature and life are ordered. The place actually orders our thinking.

That’s were this world-premier “installation” comes in. Peregrine commissioned Scanner, the British sound artist (Robin Rimbaud) to consider the place and its purpose. The result is billed as “an ethereal and seductive sound-scape” playing off the quest for order in intimate spaces “to the vast domains of the natural world.” Visitors will experience “an electro-acoustic installation and 45-minute performance created for the breathtaking space.”

The Order of Things: Saturday and Sunday, February 24 and 25, 2007, 2:00-5:00PM. The place: 17th and Montgomery.

And there more on Thursday March 1, at 5:30PM. Art historian Michael J. Lewis will speak in Wagner’s historic lecture hall on Eadweard Muybridge’s massive animal locomotion project from the 1880s. The museum will be open that evening from 5 to 7 PM. More information here.

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