American Museum of Natural History

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American Museum of Natural History
USA-NYC-American Museum of Natural History.JPG
Established 1869[1]
Location Central Park West at 79th Street, New York City, U.S.
Type Natural history
Visitors About 5 million visits annually[2][3]
Director Ellen V. Futter
Public transit access

Bus: M7, M10, M11, M79

Subway: 81st Street – Museum of Natural History (NYCS B NYCS C trains)
Website

AMNH.org

American Museum of Natural History
NRHP Reference # 76001235[4]
Added to NRHP June 24, 1976

The American Museum of Natural History (abbreviated as AMNH), located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in New York City is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world. Located in park-like grounds across the street from Central Park, the museum complex contains 27 interconnected buildings housing 45 permanent exhibition halls, in addition to a planetarium and a library. The museum collections contain over 32 million specimens of plants, humans, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, and human cultural artifacts, of which only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time, and occupies 1,600,000 square feet (150,000 m2). The Museum has a full-time scientific staff of 225, sponsors over 120 special field expeditions each year,[5] and averages about five million visits annually.

History[edit]

The Museum was founded in 1869.[1] Prior to construction of the present complex, the Museum was housed in the Arsenal building in Central Park. Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., the father of the 26th U.S. President, was one of the founders along with John David Wolfe, William T. Blodgett, Robert L. Stuart, Andrew H. Green, Robert Colgate, Morris K. Jesup, Benjamin H. Field, D. Jackson Steward, Richard M. Blatchford, J. P. Morgan, Adrian Iselin, Moses H. Grinnell, Benjamin B. Sherman, A. G. Phelps Dodge, William A. Haines, Charles A. Dana, Joseph H. Choate, Henry G. Stebbins, Henry Parish, and Howard Potter. The founding of the Museum realized the dream of naturalist Dr. Albert S. Bickmore. Bickmore, a one-time student of Harvard zoologist Louis Agassiz, lobbied tirelessly for years for the establishment of a natural history museum in New York. His proposal, backed by his powerful sponsors, won the support of the Governor of New York, John Thompson Hoffman, who signed a bill officially creating the American Museum of Natural History on April 6, 1869.[6]

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, which was opened in 1877,[1] was designed by J. Wrey Mould, both already closely identified with the architecture of Central Park.[7]:19–20 It was soon eclipsed by the south range of the Museum, designed by J. Cleaveland Cady, an exercise in rusticated brownstone neo-Romanesque, influenced by H. H. Richardson.[8] It extends 700 feet (210 m) along West 77th Street,[9] with corner towers 150 feet (46 m) tall. Its pink brownstone and granite, similar to that found at Grindstone Island in the St. Lawrence River, came from quarries at Picton Island, New York.[10] The entrance on Central Park West, the New York State Memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, completed by John Russell Pope in 1936, is an overscaled Beaux-Arts monument.[11] It leads to a vast Roman basilica, 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 extant exhibit in the Museum, the hall of Northwest Coast Indians.[12]

The old 77th street entrance of the Museum
Locations of exploring and field parties in 1913, American Museum of Natural History map

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 Dinosaur Hall and mural restoration in Roosevelt Memorial Hall. In 1992 the firm designed the new eight story AMNH Library. Additional renovations are currently under way.

The Museum's south front, spanning 77th Street from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue was cleaned, repaired and re-emerged in 2009. Steven Reichl, a spokesman for the Museum, said that work would include restoring 650 black-cherry window frames and stone repairs. The Museum's consultant on the latest renovation is Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., an architectural and engineering firm with headquarters in Northbrook, IL.[8]

The museum's first two presidents were John David Wolfe (1870–1872) and Robert L. Stuart (1872–1881), both among the museum's founders. The museum was not put on a sound footing until the appointment of the third president, Morris K. Jesup (also one of the original founders), in 1881. Jesup was president for over 25 years, overseeing its expansion and much of its golden age of exploration and collection. The fourth president, Henry Fairfield Osborn, was appointed in 1906 on the death of Jesup. Osborn consolidated the museum's expansion, developing it into one of the world's foremost natural history museums. F. Trubee Davison was president from 1933 to 1951, with A. Perry Osborn as Acting President from 1941 to 1946. Alexander M. White was president from 1951 to 1968. Gardner D. Stout was president from 1968 to 1975. Robert G. Goelet from 1975 to 1988. George D. Langdon, Jr. from 1988 to 1993. Ellen V. Futter has been president of the museum since 1993.[13]

Famous names associated with the Museum include the paleontologist and geologist Henry Fairfield Osborn; the dinosaur-hunter of the Gobi Desert, Roy Chapman Andrews (one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones);[7]:97–8 George Gaylord Simpson; biologist Ernst Mayr; pioneer cultural anthropologists Franz Boas and Margaret Mead; explorer and geographer Alexander H. Rice, Jr.; and ornithologist Robert Cushman Murphy. J. P. Morgan was also among the famous benefactors of the Museum.

Exhibition halls[edit]

A photograph of a primate skeleton.
Primate skeleton from the Hall of Primates.

The Museum boasts habitat dioramas of African, Asian and North American mammals, a full-size model of a Blue Whale suspended in the Hall of Ocean Life, sponsored by the family of Paul Milstein (reopened in 2003), a 62 foot (19 m) Haida carved and painted war canoe from the Pacific Northwest, a massive 31 ton piece of the Cape York meteorite, and the Star of India, one of the largest star sapphires in the world.[14] The circuit of an entire floor is devoted to vertebrate evolution.

The Museum has extensive anthropological collections: Asian People, Pacific People, Man in Africa, American Indian collections, general Native American collections, and collections from Mexico and Central America.

Akeley Hall of African Mammals[edit]

Akeley Hall

The Akeley Hall of African Mammals is a two story hall located directly behind the Theodore Roosevelt rotunda. Its 28 dioramas depict in meticulous 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. [15] Though the mammals are typically the main feature in the dioramas, birds and fauna 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.[16] Despite this, it is worth noting that none of the species are yet extinct, in part thanks to the work of Carl Akeley himself (see Virunga National Park). The far side of the hall is aptly connected to the Hall of African Peoples.

History[edit]

The Hall of African Mammals was first proposed to the museum by Carl Akeley around 1909.[17] His original concept contained forty dioramas which would present the rapidly vanishing landscapes and animals of Africa. The intent was that a visitor of the hall, “may have the illusion, at worst, of passing a series of pictures of primeval Africa, and at best, may think for a moment that he has stepped five thousand miles across the sea into Africa itself.” Akeley’s proposal was a hit with both the board of trustees and then museum president, Henry Fairfield Osborne. To fund it’s creation, Daniel Pomeroy, a trustee of the museum and partner at J.P. Morgan, offered interested investors the opportunity to accompany the museum’s expeditions in Africa in exchange for funding.[17]

Carl Akeley mounts specimens for the "Lions" diorama

Akeley began collecting specimens for the hall as early as 1909, famously encountering Theodore Roosevelt in the midst of the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African expedition (two of the elephants featured in the museum’s center piece were donated by Roosevelt, a cow, shot by Roosevelt himself, and a calf, shot by his son Kermit).[18] On these early expeditions, Akeley would be accompanied by his former apprentice in taxidermy, James L. Clark, and artist, William R. Leigh.[17]

When Akeley returned to Africa to collect gorillas for the hall’s first diorama, Clark remained behind and began scouring the country for artists to create the backgrounds. The eventual appearance of the first habitat groups would have a huge impact on the museum. Akeley and Clark’s skillful taxidermy paired with the backgrounds painted under Leigh’s direction created an illusion of life in these animals that made the museum’s other exhibits seem dull in comparison (the museum’s original style of exhibition can still be seen in the small area devoted to birds and animals of New York). Plans for other diorama halls quickly emerged and by 1929 Birds of the World, the Hall of North American Mammals, the Vernay Hall of Southeast Asian Mammals, and the Hall of Oceanic Life were all in stages of planning or construction.[17]

the "Plains" diorama in Akeley Hall

After Akeley’s unexpected death during the Eastman-Pommeroy expedition in 1926, responsibility of the hall’s completion fell to James L. Clark. Despite being hampered by the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, Clark’s passion for Africa and his dedication to his former mentor kept the project alive. In 1933, Clark would hire architectural artist James Perry Wilson to assist Leigh in the painting of backgrounds. More technically minded than Leigh, Wilson would make many improvements on Leigh’s techniques, including a range of methods to minimize the distortion caused by the dioramas’ curved walls.[17]

Gorilla diorama in Akeley Hall of African Mammals

In 1936, William D. Campbell, a wealthy board member with a desire to see Africa, offered to fund several dioramas if allowed to obtain the specimens himself. Clark agreed to this arrangement and shortly after Campbell left to collect the Okapi and Black Rhinoceros specimens accompanied by artist Robert Kane. Campbell would be involved, in one capacity or another, with several other subsequent expeditions. Despite setbacks including malaria, flooding, foreign government interference, and even a boat sinking, these expeditions would succeed in acquiring some of Akeley Hall’s most impressive specimens.[17][19] Back in the museum, Kane would join Leigh and Wilson, along with a handful of other artists in completing the hall’s remaining dioramas. Though construction of the hall was completed in 1936, the dioramas would gradually open between the mid 1920s and early 1940s.[20]

[20][21]

Hall of Asian Mammals[edit]

Vernay-Faunthorpe 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, originally intended to be part of an adjoining Hall of North Asian Mammals (planned in the current location of Stout Hall of Asian Peoples). These specimens can currently be seen in the Hall of Biodiversity. [22] [23]

History[edit]

Specimens for the Hall of Asian Mammals were collected over six expeditions led by Arthur S. Vernay and Col. John Faunthorpe (as noted by stylized plaques at both entrances). The expeditions were funded entirely by Vernay, a wealthy, British-born, New York antiques dealer. He characterized the expense as a British tribute to American involvement in World War I. [24]

The Indian Rhinoceros diorama at Vernay-Faunthorpe Hall

The first Vernay-Faunthorpe expedition took place in 1922. At the time, many of the animals Vernay was seeking, such as the Sumatran Rhinoceros and Asiatic Lion, were already rare and facing the possibility of extinction. To acquire these specimens, Vernay would have to make many appeals to regional authorities in order to obtain hunting permits.[25] The relations he would forge during this time would assist later Museum related expeditions headed by Vernay in gaining access to areas previously restricted to foreign visitors. [26] Artist Clarence C. Rosenkranz accompanied the Vernay-Faunthorpe expeditions as field artist and would later paint the majority of the diorama backgrounds in the hall.[27] These expeditions were also well documented in both photo and video, with enough footage of the first expedition to create a feature length film, Hunting Tigers in India (1929).[28]

Sanford Hall of North American Birds[edit]

The Cuthbert Rookery Diorama contains many of the birds once endangered by plume hunting

The Sanford Hall of North American birds is a one story hall located on the third floor of the museum, above the Hall of African Peoples and between the Hall of Primates and Akeley Hall’s second level. 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. In addition to the species listed below, the hall also has display cases devoted to large collections of warblers, owls, and raptors.

History[edit]

Mural of Flamingo Nesting Grounds by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Conceived by museum ornithologist, Frank Chapman, construction begin on dioramas for the Hall of North American Birds as early as 1902. The Hall is named for Chapman’s friend and amateur ornithologist, Leonard C. Sanford, who partially funded the hall and also donated the entirety of his own bird specimen collection to the museum. [29]

Though Chapman was not the first to create museum dioramas, he is responsible for many of the innovations that would separate and eventually define the dioramas in the American Museum. Where other dioramas of the time period typically featured generic scenery, Chapman was the first to bring artists into the field with him in the hopes of capturing a specific location at a specific time. In contrast to the dramatic scenes later created by Carl Akeley for the African Hall, Chapman wanted his dioramas to evoke a scientific realism, ultimately serving as a historical record of habitats and species facing a high probability of extinction. [30]

At the time of Sanford Hall’s construction, plume-hunting for the millinery trade had brought many coastal bird species to the brink of extinction, most notably the Great Egret. Frank Chapman was a key figure in the conservation movement that emerged during this time. His dioramas were created with the intention of furthering this conservationist cause, giving museum visitor’s a brief glimpse at the dwindling bird species being lost in the name of fashion. Thanks in part to Chapman’s efforts, both inside and outside of the museum, conservation of these bird species would be very successful, establishing refuges, such as Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, and eventually leading to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. [31]

Stout Hall of Asian Peoples[edit]

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, and was primarily organized by Dr. Walter A. Fairservis, a longtime museum archaeologist. 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.[32] 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. [33]

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. Both sections are 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 of Teshik-Tash and 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. [34]

Hall of African Peoples[edit]

Diorama depicting Pokot methods of animal husbandry

The Hall of African Peoples is located behind Akeley Hall of African Mammals and underneath Sanford Hall of North American Birds. It is organized by the four major ecosystems found in Africa: River Valley, Grasslands, Forest-Woodland, and Desert.[35] 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. Below is a brief list of some of the tribes and civilizations featured:

Spiritual costumes from a variety of African tribes

River Valley: Ancient Egyptians, Nubians, Kuba, Lozi

Grasslands: Pokot, Shilluk, Barawa

Forest-Woodland: Yoruba, Kofyar, Mbuti

Desert: Ait Atta, Tuareg

Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites[edit]

Cape York Meteorite
Willamette Meteorite

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, makes it the largest meteorite on display at any museum in the world[36]—requires support by columns that extend through the floor and into the bedrock below the Museum.[37]

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.[38]

Bernard and Anne Spitzer Hall of Human Origins[edit]

The Bernard and Anne Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, formerly The Hall of Human Biology and Evolution, opened on February 10, 2007.[39] Originally known under the name "Hall of the Age of Man", at the time of its original opening in 1921 it was the only major exhibition in the United States to present an in-depth investigation of human evolution.[40] The displays traced the story of Homo sapiens, illuminated the path of human evolution and examined the origins of human creativity.

Many of the celebrated displays from the original hall can still be viewed in the present expanded format. These include life-size dioramas of our human predecessors Australopithecus afarensis, Homo ergaster, Neanderthal, and Cro-Magnon, showing each species demonstrating the behaviors and capabilities that scientists believe they were capable of. Also displayed are full-sized casts of important fossils, including the 3.2-million-year-old Lucy skeleton and the 1.7-million-year-old Turkana Boy, and Homo erectus specimens including a cast of Peking Man.

The hall also features replicas of ice age art found in the Dordogne region of southwestern France. The limestone carvings of horses were made nearly 26,000 years ago and are considered to represent the earliest artistic expression of humans.[41]

Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals[edit]

The Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals houses hundreds of unusual geological specimens. It adjoins the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems showcasing many rare, and valuable gemstones. The exhibit was designed by the architectural firm of Wm. F. Pedersen and Assoc. with Fred Bookhardt in charge. Vincent Manson was the curator of the Mineralogy Department. The exhibit took six years to design and build, 1970–1976. The New York Times architectural critic, Paul Goldberger, said, "It is one of the finest museum installations that New York City or any city has seen in many years".[42]

On display are many renowned samples that are chosen from among the Museum's more than 100,000 pieces. Included among these are the Patricia Emerald, a 632 carat (126 g), 12 sided stone that is considered to be one of the world's most fabulous emeralds. It was discovered during the 1920s in a mine high in the Colombian Andes and was named for the mine-owner's daughter. The Patricia is one of the few large gem-quality emeralds that remains uncut.[43] Also on display is the 563 carat (113 g) Star of India, the largest, and most famous, star sapphire in the world. It was discovered over 300 years ago in Sri Lanka,[citation needed] most likely in the sands of ancient river beds from where star sapphires continue to be found today. It was donated to the Museum by the financier J.P. Morgan. The thin, radiant, six pointed star, or asterism, is created by incoming light that reflects from needle-like crystals of the mineral rutile which are found within the sapphire. The Star of India is polished into the shape of a cabochon, or dome, to enhance the star's beauty.[14] Among other notable specimens on display are a 596 pound (270 kg) topaz, a 4.5 ton specimen of blue azurite/malachite ore that was found in the Copper Queen Mine in Bisbee, Arizona at the start of the 20th century;[44] and a rare, 100 carat (20 g) orange-colored padparadschan sapphire from Sri Lanka, considered "the mother of all pads."[45] The collection also includes the Midnight Star Ruby, a 116.75-carat deep purplish-red star ruby.

On October 29, 1964, the Star of India, along with several other precious gems including the Eagle Diamond and the de Long Ruby, was stolen from the Museum.[46] The burglars, who included Jack Murphy, gained entrance by climbing through a bathroom window they had unlocked hours before the Museum was closed. The Star of India and other gems were later recovered from a locker in a Miami bus station, but the Eagle Diamond was never found; it may have been recut or lost.[47]

Milstein Hall of Ocean Life[edit]

Model of a Blue Whale in the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life

The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life opened in 1933. It was renovated in 1969 and once again in 2003. In the first of these renovations the hall's star attraction appeared: the 94-foot (29 m)-long[48] blue whale model, which is suspended from the ceiling behind its dorsal fin. The whale was redesigned dramatically in the 2003 renovation: its flukes and fins were readjusted, a navel was added, and was repainted from a dull gray to various rich shades of blue. Other notable exhibits in this hall include the Andros Coral Reef Diorama, which is the only two-level diorama in the Western Hemisphere.[49]

Fossil Halls[edit]

Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs

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. During construction of the Frick, giant cranes were employed to lift steel beams directly from the street, over the roof, and into the courtyard, in order to ensure that the classic museum façade remained undisturbed. The predicted great weight of the fossil bones led designers to add special steel reinforcement to the building's framework, as it now houses the largest collection of fossil mammals and dinosaurs in the world. These collections occupy the basement and lower seven floors of the Frick Building, while the top three floors contain laboratories and offices. It is inside this particular building that many of the Museum's intensive research programs into vertebrate paleontology are carried out.

Other areas of the Museum contain repositories of life from thousands and millions of years in the past. The Whale Bone Storage Room is a cavernous space in which powerful winches come down from the ceiling to move the giant fossil bones about. Upstairs in the Museum attic there are yet more storage facilities including the Elephant Room, and downstairs from that space one can find the tusk vault and boar vault.[7]:119–20

Skeleton of Styracosaurus

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 circuitous 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.

To create a cladogram, scientists look for shared physical characteristics to determine the relatedness of different species. For instance, a cladogram will show a relationship between amphibians, mammals, turtles, lizards, and birds since these apparently disparate groups share the trait of having 'four limbs with movable joints surrounded by muscle', making them tetrapods. A group of related species such as the tetrapods is called a "clade". Within the tetrapod group only lizards and birds display yet another trait: "two openings in the skull behind the eye". Lizards and birds therefore represent a smaller, more closely related clade known as diapsids. In a cladogram the evolutionary appearance of a new trait for the first time is known as a "node". Throughout the fossil halls the nodes are carefully marked along the evolutionary path and these nodes alert us to the appearance of new traits representing whole new branches of the evolutionary tree. Species showing these traits are on display in alcoves on either side of the path. A video projection on the Museum's fourth floor introduces visitors to the concept of the cladogram, and is popular among children and adults alike.

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).[6] 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.

The fourth-floor halls include the Hall of Vertebrate Origins, Hall of Saurischian dinosaurs (recognized by their grasping hand, long mobile neck, and the downward/forward position of the pubis bone, they are forerunners of the modern bird),[50] Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs (defined for a pubic bone that points toward the back), Hall of Primitive Mammals, and Hall of Advanced Mammals.

Anatotitan fossil skeletons

Among the many outstanding fossils on display include:

  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Composed almost entirely of real fossil bones, it is mounted in a horizontal stalking pose beautifully balanced on powerful legs. The specimen is actually composed of fossil bones from two T. rex skeletons discovered in Montana in 1902 and 1908 by the legendary dinosaur hunter Barnum Brown.[51]
  • Mammuthus: Larger than its relative the woolly mammoth, these fossils are from an animal that lived 11 thousand years ago in Indiana.[52]
  • Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus): This giant specimen was discovered at the end of the 19th century. Although most of its fossil bones are original, the skull is not, since none was found on site. It was only many years later that the first Apatosaurus skull was discovered and so a plaster cast of that skull was made and placed on the Museum's mount. A Camarasaurus skull had been used mistakenly until a correct skull was found.[53]
  • Brontops: Extinct mammal distantly related to the horse and rhinoceros. It lived 35 million years ago in what is now South Dakota. It is noted for its magnificent and unusual pair of horns.[54]
  • Two skeletons of Edmontosaurus annectens, a large herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur. the specimens are mounted in an outdated tail dragging posture.
  • On September 26, 2007, an 80-million-year-old, 2-feet-in-diameter fossil of an ammonite, which is composed entirely of the gemstone ammolite, made its debut at the Museum. Neil Landman, curator of fossil invertebrates, explained that ammonites (shelled cephalopod mollusks in the subclass Ammonoidea) became extinct 66 million years ago, in the same extinction event that killed the dinosaurs. Korite International donated the fossil after its discovery in Alberta, Canada.[55]
  • One skeleton of an Allosaurus scavenging from an Apatosaurus' corpse.
  • The only known skull of Andrewsarchus mongoliensis.

There is also a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus on display, among many other specimens.

The art of the diorama: recreating nature[edit]

Grizzly bear diorama
Nature diorama

The AMNH Exhibitions Lab is a team of renowned naturalists, artists, photographers, taxidermists and designers that blend their talents to create the great habitat dioramas found in halls throughout the Museum. Born in an era of black-and-white photography, when wildlife photography was in its earliest stages, the dioramas have themselves become major historic attractions. Notable among them is the Akeley Hall of African Mammals which opened in 1936.[56] The enormous hall showcases the vanishing wildlife of Africa, in spaces where the human presence is notably absent, and includes hyperrealistic depictions of elephants, hippopotamuses, lions, gorillas, zebras, and various species of antelope, including the rarely seen aquatic sitatunga.[57] Some of the displays are up to 18 feet (5 m) in height and 23 feet (7 m) in depth.

Carl Akeley was an outstanding taxidermist employed at the Field Museum in Chicago when the American Museum of Natural History sent him to Africa to collect elephant hides. Akeley fell in love with the rainforests of Africa and decried the encroachment of farming and civilization into formerly pristine natural habitats. Fearing the permanent loss of these natural areas, Akeley was motivated to educate the American public by creating the hall that bears his name. Akeley died in 1926 from infection while exploring the Kivu Volcanoes in his beloved Belgian Congo, an area near to that depicted by the hall's gorilla diorama.[7]:79

With the 1942 opening of the Hall of North American Mammals, diorama art reached a pinnacle. It took more than a decade to create the scenes depicted in the hall which includes a 432 square foot (40 m²) diorama of the American bison.

Today, although the art of diorama has ceased to be a major exhibition technique, dramatic examples of this art form are still occasionally employed. In 1997 Museum artists and scientists traveled to the Central African Republic to collect samples and photographs for the construction of a 3,000 square foot (300 m²) recreation of a tropical West African rainforest, the Dzanga-Sangha rain forest diorama in the Hall of Biodiversity.[58]

Other notable dioramas, some dating back to the 1930s have been restored in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. The hall is a 29,000 square foot (2,700 m²) bi-level room that includes a delicately mounted 94 foot (29 m) long model of a Blue Whale swimming beneath and around video projection screens and interactive computer stations. Among the hall's notable dioramas is the "sperm whale and giant squid", which represents a true melding of art and science since an actual encounter between these two giant creatures at over one half mile depth has never been witnessed. Another celebrated diorama in the hall represents the "Andros coral reef" in the Bahamas, a two-story-high diorama that features the land form of the Bahamas and the many inhabitants of the coral reef found beneath the water's surface.

Rose Center for Earth and Space[edit]

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, designed by James Stewart Polshek.[59] The Heilbrun Cosmic Pathway is one of the most popular exhibits in the Rose Center, which opened February 19, 2000.[39]

The original Hayden Planetarium was founded in 1933 with a donation by philanthropist Charles Hayden. Opened in 1935,[60] it was demolished and replaced in 2000 by the $210 million Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space. Designed by James Stewart Polshek, the new building consists of a six-story high glass cube enclosing a 87-foot (27 m) illuminated sphere that appears to float — although it is actually supported by truss work. James Polshek has referred to his work as a "cosmic cathedral".[61] The Rose center and its adjacent plaza, both located on the north facade of the Museum, are regarded as some of Manhattan's most outstanding recent architectural additions. The facility encloses 333,500 square feet (30,980 m2) of research, education, and exhibition space as well as the Hayden planetarium. Also located in the facility is the Department of Astrophysics, the newest academic research department in the Museum. Further, Polshek designed the 1,800-square-foot (170 m2) Weston Pavilion, a 43-foot (13 m) high transparent structure of "water white" glass along the Museum's west facade. This structure, a small companion piece to the Rose Center, offers a new entry way to the Museum as well as opening further exhibition space for astronomically related objects. The planetarium's former magazine, The Sky, merged with "The Telescope", to become the astronomy magazine Sky & Telescope.[62]

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.

Research Library[edit]

The Research Library is open to staff and public visitors, and is located on the fourth floor of the museum.[2]

The Library collects materials covering such subjects as mammalogy, earth and planetary science, astronomy and astrophysics, anthropology, entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, paleontology, ethology, ornithology, mineralogy, invertebrates, systematics, ecology, oceanography, conchology, exploration and travel, history of science, museology, bibliography, genomics, and peripheral biological sciences. The collection is rich in retrospective materials — some going back to the 15th century — that are difficult to find elsewhere.[63]

History[edit]

In its early years, the Library expanded its collection mostly through such gifts as the John C. Jay conchological library, the Carson Brevoort library on fishes and general zoology, the ornithological library of Daniel Giraud Elliot, the Harry Edwards entomological library, the Hugh Jewett collection of voyages and travel and the Jules Marcou geology collection. In 1903 the American Ethnological Society deposited its library in the Museum and in 1905 the New York Academy of Sciences followed suit by transferring its collection of 10,000 volumes.

Today, the Library's collections contain over 550,000 volumes of monographs, serials, pamphlets, reprints, microforms, and original illustrations, as well as film, photographic, archives and manuscripts, fine art, memorabilia and rare book collections.

The new Library was designed by the firm Roche-Dinkeloo in 1992. The space is 55,000-sq ft and includes five different 'conservation zones', ranging from the 50-person reading room and public offices, to temperature and humidity controlled rooms.[64]

Special Collections[edit]

  • Institutional Archives, Manuscripts, and Personal Papers: Includes archival documents, field notebooks, clippings and other documents relating to the museum, its scientists and staff, scientific expeditions and research, Museum exhibitions, education, and general administration.[3]
  • Art and Memorabilia Collection.[4]
  • Moving Image Collection.[5]
  • Vertical Files: Relating to exhibitions, expeditions, and museum operations.[6]

Research activities[edit]

A matrix barcode that uniquely identifies a specimen in the museum's entomology collection.

The Museum has a scientific staff of more than 200, and sponsors over 100 special field expeditions each year. 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). Examples of some of these expeditions, financed in whole or part by the AMNH are: Jesup North Pacific Expedition, the Whitney South Seas Expedition, the Roosevelt–Rondon Scientific Expedition, the Crocker Land Expedition, and the expeditions to Madagascar and New Guinea by Richard Archbold. On a smaller scale, expeditions continue into the present. The Museum also publishes several peer-reviewed journals, including the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History.[65] In 1976, animal rights activist Henry Spira led a campaign against vivisection on cats that the American Museum of Natural History had been conducting for 20 years, intended to research the impact of certain types of mutilation on the sex lives of cats. The museum halted the research in 1977, and Spira's campaign was hailed as the first ever to succeed in stopping animal experiments.

Educational outreach[edit]

AMNH's education programs include outreach to schools in New York City by the Moveable Museum.[66][67][68][69][70][71][72][73][74][75][76][77] AMNH also offers a Master of Arts in Science Teaching and a PhD in Comparative Biology.[78][79]

Surroundings[edit]

The Museum is located at 79th Street and Central Park West, accessible via the B C trains of the New York City Subway. There is a low-level floor direct access into the Museum via the 81st Street - Museum of Natural History subway station on the IND Eighth Avenue Line at the south end of the upper platform (where the uptown trains arrive).

On a pedestal outside the Museum's Columbus Avenue entrance is a stainless steel time capsule, which was created after a design competition that was won by Santiago Calatrava. The capsule was sealed at the beginning of 2000, to mark the beginning of the 3rd millennium. It takes the form of a folded saddle-shaped volume, symmetrical on multiple axes, that explores formal properties of folded spherical frames. Calatrava described it as "a flower". The plan is that the capsule will be opened in the year 3000.[80]

The Museum is situated in a 17-acre (69,000 m2) city park known as "Theodore Roosevelt Park". The park extends from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue, and from West 77th Street to West 81st Street. Theodore Roosevelt Park contains park benches, gardens and lawns, and also a dog run.[81]

In popular culture[edit]

The Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, the main ticketing lobby

Images[edit]


See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°46′50″N 73°58′29″W / 40.78056°N 73.97472°W / 40.78056; -73.97472