American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s preeminent scientific and cultural institutions. Founded in 1869, the Museum discovers, interprets, and disseminates information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe through its research, education, and exhibitions.
In 1869, Albert Smith Bickmore, a Harvard student in zoology, successfully convinced New York that it should have a museum of natural history. Later in 1877, the museum’s first building opened to the public.
In 2009, a major renovation and restoration of the castle-like 700-foot long facade of the building was begun. The 42 foot wide arch was also completely reconstructed.
The museum has 4 floors including the basement where there’s parking, a food court, access to a subway station, and the Cullman Hall of the Universe, which we’ll visit later.
Each floor is separated into grand halls where unique exhibitions are displayed.
The Bernhard Family Hall of North American Mammals contains 43 dioramas with some very realistic taxidermy depicting 46 mammal species ranging from the nine-banded armadillo to the white tailed deer.
The hall of biodiversity presents some of the remarkable diversity of life on our planet through a 2500 square foot walk through of a model of part of the Dzanga-Sangha rain forest in the Northern Congo.
There are more than 1500 specimens and models on display in the Spectrum of Life exhibit, from microorganisms to terrestrial and aquatic giants – organized into 28 different groups along the 100 foot long display.
In the Hall of Planet Earth, a remarkable collection of geological specimens from all over the world is on display – from Indonesia to Australia to New York’s own Central Park.
The hall is separated into six sections that answer some major questions about the Planet Earth.
The hall features 168 rock specimens and 11 full-scale rock outcroppings and spans about 4.3 billion years of evolutionary period on our planet.
The hall of North American Forests displays a sampling of the variety of forests in North America – from a spruce and fir forest in Ontario, to a cactus forest in Arizona.
Dioramas showcase some of the wildlife to be found in the forests of North America.
The Forest Floor diorama shows a 24 times enlarged cross section of the forest floor soil illustrating the process by which natural debris is broken down into nutrients for the forest.
The hall features a slice of a 1400 year old giant sequoia that once stood 300 feet tall in California until it was cut down in 1891.
The 29,000 square foot Milstein Hall of Ocean life details the drama of the undersea world with more than 750 sea creatures ranging from tiny green algae to glowing jellyfishes.
The celebrated 94 foot long 21,000 pound model of a blue whale is suspended across the hall’s ceiling.
The hall features video projections, interactive computer stations, hands-on models, 14 dioramas, and 8 complete ocean ecosystem displays to teach you more about the universe under the water’s surface.
The exhibits in the hall of New York State Environment focuses on the landscape changes since Precambrian times of New York’s Dutchess Country.
This wilderness area in New York includes mountains, natural lakes, forests, rock formations, and wild and cultivated land. The exhibits show seasonal cycles in the plant and animal life of this area.
Cutaway views of the terrain reveal fossils, minerals, and illustrate the geologic history of the area.
Inside the 77th street entrance, the Grand Gallery contains the museum’s iconic symbol – a 63 foot long Great Canoe suspended from the ceiling of this great hall.
The gallery displays fossils and precious mineral specimens.
The hall of Northwest Coast Indians display cultural items and historic photos from the native peoples of Washington State and Alaska, including the Kwakiutl, Haida, Tlingit, and other tribes.
This hall is one of the oldest in the museum, opening in 1900 to showcase the collection of artifacts from the Jesup North Pacific expedition from 1897 to 1902.
Exhibits include examples of the extraordinary woodcarving skills of the Northwest Coast native Americans.
Totems and ceremonial masks are just one part of the display. Much smaller household utensils used in everyday life are also on display here.
The hall of Human Origins cover million of years of human history, from early humans who lived more than six million years ago all the way up to modern Homo sapiens.
The exhibits combine fossil records with the latest genomic science to present who we are, where we came from, and where we are headed. It traces the path of human evolution through history.
Four life-sized statues of Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Cro-magnons show our early ancestors in their habitats.
The exhibit also features the 1.7 million year old Turkana Boy and an original limestone engraving of a horse carved about 25,000 years ago in southwest France.
The Hall of Meteorites explores 4.6 billion years of evolution in our solar system through a collection of meteorites that have struck the Earth over the ages.
The hall is divided into three sections: the origins of the solar system, the process of building planets, and meteorite impacts on Earth.
The 34 ton Cape York Meteorite is on display here along with 130 other significant meteorites.
The hall of minerals showcases a collection of hundreds of minerals from all over the world, including a giant topaz crystal from Brazil and a 4 and a half ton block of azurite-malachite ore from Arizona.
The Hall of the Universe on the basement floor of the museum presents the discoveries of modern astrophysics divided into four sections covering the formation, the evolution, and properties of the stars, planets, galaxies and the universe.
The Universe Zone explores the expansion of the universe and the ways in which humans have tried to observe this expansion.
The Galaxies Zone presents all the beauty and diversity of galaxies along with their violent deaths.
The Stars Zone traces the life and death of stars and shows what elements are created from the stars and how they become the building blocks of life on our planet.
The Planets Zone focuses on the variety of planets and their structures in the universe. This zone also examines in detail some of the major collisions that have occurred between planets and the Earth in history.
The exhibits combine the rich astronomical imagery of the Universe captured over the years with real specimens including the 15 ton iron-nickel Willamette Meteorite discovered in West Linn Oregon by Ellis Hughes in 1902. It is the largest meteorite found in North America and the sixth largest in the world.
At the heart of the hall is the 13 foot wide Astro Bulletin screen which shows regularly updated features on the latest discoveries in astrophysics.
The second floor of the museum includes exhibits on the Central American and Mexico peoples, South American peoples, Asian Peoples, and African Mammals and Birds of the World.
The Hall of Birds of the World features remarkable taxidermy of birds from all around the world in 12 realistic dioramas that depict the birds’ natural habitat.
From deserts to tropical rainforests, each scene reflects the incredible diversity of birds that have adapted to the special circumstances of their habitat.
The hall of African Mammals features incredible models of the large mammals of Africa including a freestanding group of eight elephants.
The charging elephants are surrounded by 28 habitat dioramas that depict the diverse wildlife in Africa, from the Serengeti Plain to the Upper Nile and the volcanic mountains of what was once the Belgian Congo.
Each of the dioramas is a recreation based on meticulous observations of scientists in the field during the early 20th century and by artists’ sketches and photographs of the area.