Reading Public Museum
Backstory and Context
History of the Museum
The museum’s conception and founding can actually be traced back to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and the efforts of Dr. Levi W. Mengel. At the fair, Dr. Mengel acquired upwards of 2,000 items from China, Japan, India, and other places around the world. Three years later in 1907, Dr. Mengel and the community helped convert the third floor of the Reading School District administration building.
The museum stayed in this building until 1925, when Ferdinand Thun and Irvin F. Impink donated the present site to the Reading School District. In 1929, the new building opened to the public and the collections continued to grow over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries.1
Collections and Exhibitions
Although the planetarium and the arboretum emphasize immersion and excitement, the vast collection truly offers a fulfilling museum experience. The collections at the museum fall within art, science, and civilization categories, though many of the galleries provide nuanced views into these fields.
For example, the Natural Science galleries are packed with dinosaur fossils, insects, birds and more, while the North American Indian Gallery showcases the rich history of the Deleware Montagnais, and Inuit tribes. Rotating exhibitions change every so often, and include topics and themes such as “Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient Grain,” “Awkward Family Photos,” or “Italian Futurism.”2
Neag Planetarium and the Arboretum
Next to the collections and exhibitions, thousands of visitors come to the Reading Public Museum every year to experience the Neag Planetarium and the 25-acre arboretum. With its digitally enhanced full-immersion technology, the planetarium showcases the universe in fantastic quality. Additionally, visitors can enjoy live 3D sky simulations, full-dome shows, and multimedia presentations.3
The arboretum, on the other hand, invites the public to take leisurely walks through 25 landscaped areas. Constantly changing throughout the year depending on the season, no two experiences at the arboretum are the same. In fact, the Wyomissing Creek that flows through the arboretum stands as one of Berks County’s most visited places.4
Programs and Events
Whenever planning a trip to the Reading Public Museum, always keep watch for any programs or events that may be happening. Throughout the year, the museum hosts everything from lecture series to bus trips that port participants to exciting locations.
Every second Thursday of the month, the planetarium and the museum host “Jazz Under the Stars,” where local, regional, and national artists come to serenade large crowds. “Dogs and Brews” is another fun activity combining the love of pets, beer, and being social with the community.5