In the spirit of inquiry and discovery embodied by Benjamin Franklin, the mission of The Franklin Institute is to inspire a passion for learning about science and technology.
On February 5, 1824, Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating founded The Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts. The Franklin Institute's founding purpose was to honor Benjamin Franklin and advance the usefulness of his inventions, and since then The Franklin Institute has played a central, yet constantly evolving, role in meeting the educational needs of America in the fields of science and technology. For the organization's first century, the Institute offered classes in mechanics, drafting, and engineering, and promoted science and invention. In 1930, despite the Great Depression, The Franklin Institute and the Poor Richard Club began to seek funds to build a new science museum and memorial hall. In just twelve days, the community contributed $5.1 million, and in 1932, the cornerstone of the new Franklin Institute was laid at 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The Franklin Institute science museum opened to the public on January 1, 1934, titling itself a "Wonderland of Science," and was one of the first museums in the nation to offer a hands-on approach to learning about the physical world. Three major capital campaigns (1990, 2003, and 2012) enabled physical and programmatic expansion resulting in the existing facility, which contains more than 400,000 square feet of exhibit space, two auditoriums, and the Tuttleman IMAX Theater. The Institute also operates the Fels Planetarium, the second oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. The Institute is home to the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, which was fully restored in 2010 and which is open free to the public. It is one of just a handful of national memorials in the custody of a private institution.
In June 2014 the Institute opened a new wing: the 53,000-square-foot Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion houses a STEM education and conference center, a climate-controlled traveling exhibition gallery, and the new permanent exhibit Your Brain, in which visitors can explore neuroscience and their own senses. The new building is LEED-Silver certified thanks to its many energy-saving and "green" features, and has received an award from the American Institute of Architects.