American Museum of Natural History facts for kids
Looking at the east entrance from Central Park West
|Location||Central Park West at 79th Street, New York City, U.S. 10024|
|Visitors||About 5,000,000 annually|
|Public transit access||New York City Bus:
M7, M10, M11, M79
New York City Subway:
81st Street – Museum of Natural History ( train)
The American Museum of Natural History (abbreviated as AMNH), located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City, is one of the largest museums in the world. Located in Theodore Roosevelt Park across the street from Central Park, the museum complex comprises 28 interconnected buildings housing 45 permanent exhibition halls, in addition to a planetarium and a library.
The museum collections contain over 33 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural artifacts, of which only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time, and occupies more than 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2). The museum has a full-time scientific staff of 225, sponsors over 120 special field expeditions each year, and averages about five million visits annually.
The founding of the museum realized the dream of naturalist Dr. Albert S. Bickmore. Bickmore, a one-time student of Harvard zoologist Louis Agassiz who tried tirelessly for years for the establishment of a natural history museum in New York.
The one mission statement of the American Museum of Natural History is: "To discover, interpret, and disseminate—through scientific research and education—knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe."
- Mammal halls
- Birds, reptiles, and amphibian halls
- Biodiversity and environmental halls
- Human origins and cultural halls
- Earth and planetary science halls
- Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals
- Fossil halls
- Rose Center for Earth and Space
- Images for kids
Before construction of the present complex, the museum was housed in the Arsenal building in Central Park.
In 1874, the cornerstone was laid for the museum's first building, which is now hidden from view by the many buildings in the complex that today occupy most of Manhattan Square. The original Victorian Gothic building was opened in 1877.
The entrance on Central Park West has the New York State Memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, completed by John Russell Pope in 1936. It leads to where visitors are greeted with a cast of a skeleton of a rearing Barosaurus defending her young from an Allosaurus.
The museum is also accessible through its 77th street foyer, renamed the "Grand Gallery" and featuring a fully suspended Haida canoe. The hall leads into the oldest exhibit in the museum, the hall of Northwest Coast Indians.
Since 1930, little has been added to the exterior of the original building. The architect Kevin Roche and his firm Roche-Dinkeloo have been responsible for the master planning of the museum since the 1990s. Various renovations both interior and exterior have been carried out including improvements to the Dinosaur Hall and mural restoration in Roosevelt Memorial Hall.
In 1992 the firm designed the new eight story AMNH Library.
Akeley Hall of African Mammals
Named after taxidermist Carl Akeley, the Akeley Hall of African Mammals is a two-story hall located directly behind the Theodore Roosevelt rotunda. Its 28 dioramas depict in detail the great range of ecosystems found in Africa and the mammals endemic to them. The centerpiece of the hall is a pack of eight African elephants in a characteristic 'alarmed' formation. Though construction of the hall was completed in 1936, the dioramas would gradually open between the mid-1920s and early 1940s.
Though the mammals are typically the main feature in the dioramas, birds and flora of the regions are occasionally featured as well. In the 80 years since Akeley Hall’s creation, many of the species within have become endangered, some critically, and the locations deforested. Despite this, none of the species are yet extinct, in part thanks to the work of Carl Akeley himself (see Virunga National Park). The hall connects to the Hall of African Peoples.
Hall of Asian Mammals
The Hall of Asian Mammals, sometimes referred to as the Vernay-Faunthorpe Hall of Asian Mammals, is a one story hall located directly to the left of the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda.
It contains 8 complete dioramas, 4 partial dioramas, and 6 habitat groups of mammals and locations from India, Nepal, Burma, and Malaysia.
The hall opened in 1930 and, similar to Akeley Hall, is centered around 2 Asian elephants.
At one point, a giant panda and Siberian tiger were also part of the Hall's collection. these specimens can now be seen in the Hall of Biodiversity.
New World mammals
The Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals features 43 dioramas of various mammals of the American continent, north of tropical Mexico. Each diorama places focus on a particular species, ranging from the largest megafauna to the smaller rodents and carnivores.
Notable dioramas include the Alaskan brown bears, a pair of wolves, a Sonoran jaguar, and dueling bull Alaska moose.
Birds, reptiles, and amphibian halls
Sanford Hall of North American Birds
The Sanford Hall of North American birds is a one story hall located on the third floor of the museum. Its 25 dioramas depict birds from across North America in their native habitats.
Opening in 1909, the dioramas in Sanford Hall were the first to be exhibited in the museum and are, at present, the oldest still on display.
At the far end of the hall are two large murals by renowned ornithologist and artist, Louis Agassiz Fuertes.
The hall also has display cases devoted to large collections of warblers, owls, and raptors.
Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians
The Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians serves as an introduction to herpetology, with many exhibits detailing reptile evolution, anatomy, diversity, reproduction, and behavior. Notable exhibits include a komodo dragon group, an American alligator, Lonesome George, the last Pinta island tortise, and poison dart frogs.
Hall of Birds of the World
The global diversity of bird species is exhibited in this hall. 12 dioramas showcase various ecosystems around the world and provide a sample of the varieties of birds that live there. Example dioramas include South Georgia featuring king penguins and skuas, the East African plains featuring secretarybirds and bustards, and the Australian outback featuring honeyeaters, cockatoos, and kookaburras.
Whitney Memorial Hall of Oceanic Birds
This particular hall has undergone a complicated history over the years since its founding in 1953. The hall features birds of the Pacific islands. In the years up to its founding, the museum had engaged in various expeditions to Fiji, New Zealand, and the Marianas (among other locations) to collect birds for the exhibit.
The hall was designed as a completely immersive collection of dioramas, including a circular display featuring birds-of-paradise.
In 1998, The Butterfly Conservatory was installed inside the hall originally as a temporary exhibit, but as the popular demand of the exhibit increased, the Hall of Oceanic Birds has more or less remained closed by the museum.
Biodiversity and environmental halls
Hall of North American Forests
The Hall of North American Forests is a one story hall and opened in 1959. It contains ten dioramas depicting a range of forest types from across North America as well as several displays on forest conservation and tree health.
Each diorama specifically lists both the location and exact time of year depicted.
Trees and plants featured in the dioramas are constructed of a combination of art supplies and actual bark and other specimens collected in the field.
The entrance to the hall features a cross section from a 1,400-year-old sequoia taken from the King's River grove on the west flank of the Sierra Mountains in 1891.
Warburg Hall of New York State Environments
Warburg Hall of New York State Environments is a one story hall which is based on the town of Pine Plains and near-by Stissing Mountain in Dutchess County, the hall has a presentation of the eco-systems typical of New York.
Aspects covered include soil types, seasonal changes, and the impact of both humans and nonhuman animals on the environment.
It is named for the German-American philanthropist, Felix M. Warburg.
Warburg Hall opened in 1951. It has changed little since and is now frequently regarded for its retro-modern styling.
Milstein Hall of Ocean Life
The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life focuses on marine biology, botany and marine conservation. The hall is most famous for its 94-foot (29 m)-long blue whale model, suspended from the ceiling. The hall's classic lines and visually arresting elegance host cutting-edge exhibition technology and the latest scientific research on the ocean.
The 29,000-square-foot (2,700 m²) Hall has been transformed into a fully immersive marine environment with high-definition video projections, interactive computer stations, hands-on models, 14 renovated classic dioramas, and eight new ocean ecosystem displays that transport visitors from the rainbow-hued profusion of life in the Indo-Pacific coral reefs to the flickering bio luminescence of fishes in the eerie darkness of the deep sea.
The upper level of the hall exhibits the vast array of ecosystems present in the ocean. Dioramas compare and contrast the life in these different settings including polar seas, kelp forests, mangroves, coral reefs and the bathypelagic. It attempts to show how vast and varied the oceans are while encouraging common themes throughout.
The lower, and arguably more famous, half of the hall consists of several large dioramas of larger marine organisms. It is on this level that the famous "Squid and the Whale" diorama sits, depicting a fight between the two creatures.
Other notable exhibits in this hall include the Andros Coral Reef Diorama, which is the only two-level diorama in the Western Hemisphere.
Human origins and cultural halls
Stout Hall of Asian Peoples
The Stout Hall of Asian Peoples is a one story hall located on the museum’s second floor in between the Hall of Asian Mammals and Birds of the World. It is named for Gardner D. Stout, a former president of the museum.
Opened in 1980, Stout Hall is the museum’s largest anthropological hall and contains artifacts acquired by the museum between 1869 and the mid-1970s. Many famous expeditions sponsored by the museum are associated with the artifacts in the hall, including the Roy Chapman Andrews expeditions in Central Asia and the Vernay-Hopwood Chindwin expedition.
Stout Hall has two sections: Ancient Eurasia, a small section devoted to the evolution of human civilization in Eurasia, and Traditional Asia, a much larger section containing cultural artifacts from across the Asian continent, this section is organized to geographically correspond with two major trade routes of the Silk Road.
Like many of the museum’s exhibition halls, the artifacts in Stout Hall are presented in a variety of ways including exhibits, miniature dioramas, and 5 full scale dioramas.
Notable exhibits in the Ancient Eurasian section include reproductions from the famed archaeological sites such as Çatalhöyük, as well as a full size replica of a Hammurabi Stele.
The Traditional Asia section contains areas devoted to major Asian countries, such as Japan, China, Tibet, and India, while also including a vast array of smaller Asian tribes including the Ainu, Semai, and Yakut.
Hall of African Peoples
The Hall of African Peoples is organized by the four major ecosystems found in Africa: River Valley, Grasslands, Forest-Woodland, and Desert. Each section presents artifacts and exhibits of the peoples native to the ecosystems throughout Africa.
The hall contains three dioramas and notable exhibits include a large collection of spiritual costumes on display in the Forest-Woodland section.
Uniting the sections of the hall is a multi-faceted comparison of African societies based on hunting and gathering, cultivation, and animal domestication.
Each type of society is presented in a historical, political, spiritual, and ecological context. A small section of African diaspora spread by the slave trade is also included.
Hall of Mexico and Central America
The Hall of Mexico and Central America presents archaeological artifacts from a broad range of pre-Columbian civilizations that once existed across Middle America, including the Maya, Olmec, Zapotec, and Aztec. Because most of these civilizations did not leave behind recorded writing or have any contact with Western civilization, the aim of the hall is to piece together what it is possible to know about them from the artifacts alone.
The museum has displayed pre-Columbian artifacts since its opening, only a short time after the discovery of the civilizations by archaeologists, with its first hall dedicated to the subject opening in 1899. As the museum’s collection grew, the hall underwent major renovations in 1944 and again in 1970 when it re-opened in its current form.
Notable artifacts on display include the Kunz Axe and a full-scale replica of Tomb 104 from the Monte Albán archaeological site, originally displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair.
The Hall of Northwest Coast Indians opened in 1900 under the name "Jesup North Pacific Hall", it is currently the oldest exhibition hall in the museum, though it has undergone many renovations in its history.
The hall contains artifacts and exhibits of the tribes of the North Pacific Coast cultural region (Southern Alaska, Northern Washington, and a portion of British Columbia). Featured prominently in the hall are four "House Posts" from the Kwakwaka'wakw nation and murals by William S. Taylor depicting native life.
Artifacts in the hall originated from three main sources. The earliest of these was a gift of Haida artifacts. This was followed by the museum’s purchase of two collections of Tlingit artifacts.
The remainder of the hall’s artifacts were collected during the famed Jesup North Pacific Expedition between 1897 and 1902. Led by influential anthropologist Franz Boas, the expedition was the first for the museum’s Division of Anthropology and is now considered the, “foremost expedition in American anthropology”.
Many famous ethnologists took part, including George Hunt, who secured the Kwakwaka’wakw House Posts that currently stand in the hall.
Other tribes featured in the hall include: Coastal Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth (listed as Nootka), Tsimshian, and Nuxalk (listed as Bella Coola)
The primary focus of this hall is the North American Great Plains peoples as they were at the middle of the 19th Century, including depictions of Blackfeet, Hidatsa, and Dakota cultures.
Of particular interest is a Folsom point discovered in 1926 New Mexico, providing valuable evidence of early American colonization of the Americas.
The Hall of the Eastern Woodlands Indians details the lives and technology of traditional Native American peoples in the woodland environments of eastern North America. Particular cultures exhibited include Cree, Mohegan, Ojibwe, and Iroquois.
The blue whale
Mice in a diorama
Earth and planetary science halls
The Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites contains some of the finest specimens in the world including Ahnighito, a section of the 200 ton Cape York meteorite which was found at the location of the same name in Greenland.
The meteorite's great weight—at 34 tons, it is the largest meteorite on display at any museum in the world—requires support by columns that extend through the floor and into the bedrock below the museum.
The hall also contains extra-solar nanodiamonds (diamonds with dimensions on the nanometer level) more than 5 billion years old. These were extracted from a meteorite sample through chemical means, and they are so small that a quadrillion of these fit into a volume smaller than a cubic centimeter.
David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth
The David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth is a permanent hall devoted to the history of Earth, from accretion to the origin of life and contemporary human impacts on the planet.
Several sections also discuss the studies of Earth systems, including geology, glaciology, atmospheric sciences, and volcanology.
The exhibit is famous for its large, touchable rock specimens. The hall features striking samples of banded iron and deformed conglomerate rocks, as well as granites, sandstones, lavas, and three black smokers.
The north section of the hall, which deals primarily with plate tectonics, is arranged to mimic the Earth's structure, with the core and mantle at the center and crustal features on the perimeter.
Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals
The Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals houses hundreds of unusual geological specimens, showcasing many rare, and valuable gemstones.
It is one of the finest museum installations that New York City or any city has seen in many years. On display are many renowned samples that are chosen from among the museum's more than 100,000 pieces.
Quartz var. agate geode
Quartz var. amethyst geode
Most of the museum's collections of mammalian and dinosaur fossils remain hidden from public view. They are kept in numerous storage areas located deep within the museum complex. Among these, the most significant storage facility is the ten story Childs Frick Building which stands within an inner courtyard of the museum.
The great fossil collections that are open to public view occupy the entire fourth floor of the museum as well as a separate exhibit that is on permanent display in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, the museum's main entrance.
The fourth floor exhibits allow the visitor to trace the evolution of vertebrates by following a circulars path that leads through several museum buildings. On the 77th street side of the museum the visitor begins in the Orientation Center and follows a carefully marked path, which takes the visitor along an evolutionary tree of life.
As the tree "branches" the visitor is presented with the familial relationships among vertebrates. This evolutionary pathway is known as a cladogram.
Many of the fossils on display represent unique and historic pieces that were collected during the museum's golden era of worldwide expeditions (1880s to 1930s). On a smaller scale, expeditions continue into the present and have resulted in additions to the collections from Vietnam, Madagascar, South America, and central and eastern Africa.
A Triceratops and a Stegosaurus are also both on display, among many other specimens.
Rose Center for Earth and Space
The Hayden Planetarium, connected to the museum, is now part of the Rose Center for Earth and Space, housed in a glass cube containing the spherical Space Theater. The Heilbrun Cosmic Pathway is one of the most popular exhibits in the Rose Center, which opened February 19, 2000.
The original Hayden Planetarium was founded in 1933 and opened in 1935, it was demolished and replaced in 2000 costing $210 million.
Tom Hanks provided the voice-over for the first planetarium show during the opening of the new Rose Center for Earth & Space in the Hayden Planetarium in 2000. Since then such celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford and Maya Angelou have been featured.
Images for kids
This building was built in 1874 and opened in 1877. Currently, this building houses (first floor to fourth floor) the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, Hall of African Peoples, the Sanford Hall of North American Birds, and Hall of Vertebrate Origins.
This building was completed by the end of the 19th century. The buildings beside this one would be complete in the early 20th century. Currently, this building houses (first floor to fourth floor) the Grand Gallery, Birds of the World, Primates, and the Wallach Orientation Center.
The two Alaska Peninsula brown bears at the AMNH
A fiberglass cast of a moai in the Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples
Skeleton of Styracosaurus
A matrix barcode that uniquely identifies a specimen in the museum's entomology collection.
A forced perspective, miniature diorama of Isfahan
Tibetan Vajrapani statue
Tibetan Kalachakra statue
American bison and pronghorn diorama (right)