Meher Baba visited the musuem in 1952
American Museum of Natural History
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|American Museum of Natural History|
Central Park West at 79th Street, New York City, United States
about 4 million visits annually
|Public transit access||
B, C, M7, M10, M11, M79, 81st Street–Museum of Natural History (IND Eighth Avenue
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, the Museum comprises 25 interconnected buildings that house 46 permanent exhibition halls, research laboratories, and its renowned library.
The collections contain over 32 million specimens, of which only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time. The Museum has a scientific staff of more than 200, and sponsors over 100
special field expeditions each year.
The Museum was founded in 1869. Prior to construction of the present complex, the Museum was housed in the older 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. Pierpont 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.
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, was designed by Calvert Vaux and J. Wrey Mould, both already closely identified with the architecture of Central
Park.: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. It extends 700 feet (210 m) along West 77th Street, with corner towers 150 feet (46 m) tall. Its pink brownstone and granite, similar to that
found at Grindstone Island in
Lawrence River, came from quarries at Picton Island, New York. 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. 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.
Since 1930 little has been added to the original building. 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.
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.
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);: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. The philanthropist Harry Payne Whitney financed the Whitney South Seas Expedition (1920–1932) for the Museum, greatly expanding its collection of biological and anthropological specimens from the south-west Pacific region.
 Exhibition halls
The Museum boasts habitat dioramas of African, Asian and North American mammals, a full-size model of a Blue Whale suspended in the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life (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, the largest star sapphire in the world. The circuit of an entire floor is devoted to vertebrate evolution.
The Museum has extensive anthropological collections: Asian Peoples, Pacific Peoples, Man in Africa, American Indian collections, general Native American collections, and collections from Mexico and Central America.
 Human Biology and Evolution
The Bernard and Anne Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, formerly The Hall of Human Biology and Evolution, opened on February 10, 2007. 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 exhibit in the United States to present an in-depth investigation of human evolution. 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.
 Halls of Minerals and Gems
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. 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, 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
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. 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 turn of the century; and a
rare, 100 carat (20 g) orange-colored padparadschan sapphire from Sri Lanka, considered "the mother of all pads."
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 by several thieves. The
group of burglars, which 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.
 Hall of Meteorites
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 that 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 many
thousands of trillions of these fit into a volume smaller than a cubic centimeter.
 Fossil Halls
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.:119-20
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). 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), Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs (defined for a pubic bone that points toward the back), Hall of Primitive Mammals, and Hall of Advanced Mammals.
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
Mammuthus: Larger than
its relative the woolly mammoth,
these fossils are from an animal that lived 11 thousand years ago in Indiana.
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
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
- Two skeletons of Anatotitan, a large herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur.
- On September 26, 2007, an 80-million-year-old, 2-feet-in-diameter fossil of ammonite made its debut at the Museum. Neil Landman, curator, said that it became extinct 65 million years ago, at the time of the
International donated it after its discovery in Alberta, Canada.
 The Art of the Diorama: Recreating Nature
Renowned naturalists, artists, photographers, taxidermists and other Museum personnel have blended their talents to create the great habitat dioramas which can be 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. 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. 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.: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
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 and Planetarium
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. 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 with a donation by philanthropist Charles Hayden. Opened in 1935, 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". 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 leading astronomy magazine Sky & Telescope.
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.
From its founding, the Library of the American Museum of Natural History has grown into one of the world's great natural history collections. 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 450,000 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
Library collects materials covering such subjects as mammalogy, geology, anthropology, entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, paleontology, ethology, ornithology, mineralogy, invertebrates, systematics, ecology, oceanography, conchology, exploration and travel, history of science, museology, bibliography, and peripheral biological sciences. The collection is rich in
retrospective materials — some going back to the 15th century — that are difficult to find elsewhere.
 Research activities
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.
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 to 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).
The Museum also houses the stainless steel time capsule designed after a competition won by Santiago Calatrava, which was sealed at the end of 2000 to mark the millennium. It takes the form of a folded saddle-shaped volume, symmetrical on multiple axes, that explores formal properties of folded spherical frames, which Calatrava described as a flower. It stands on a pedestal outside the Museum's Columbus Avenue entrance. The capsule is to remain sealed until the year 3000.
 In popular culture
- In J. D. Salinger's book
The Catcher in
the Rye, the protagonist Holden Caulfield at one point finds himself heading towards the Museum, reflecting on past visits and remarking that what he likes is the
permanence of the exhibits there.
- In many episodes of the Time Warp Trio on Discovery Kids, Joe, Sam, and Fred are in the Museum; in one episode they see it 90 years into the future.
- The museum in the film Night at the Museum (2006) is based on a 1993 book that was set at the AMNH (The Night at the Museum). The interior scenes were shot at a sound stage in Vancouver, British Columbia, but exterior shots of the museum's façade were done at the actual AMNH. The museum in the film itself features a Hall of African Mammals, a Hall of Reptiles is mentioned, "Gems and Minerals" can be seen on a sign, there is a brief scene featuring the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life and the Blue Whale model, and it is dedicated to Teddy Roosevelt. AMNH officials have credited the movie with increasing the number of visitors during the holiday season in 2006 by almost 20%. According to Museum president Ellen Futter, there were 50,000 more visits over the previous year during the 2006 holiday season. Its 2009 sequel was partially set in this museum.
- The Museum appeared in the film "The Nanny Diaries".
- The Museum has appeared repeatedly in the fiction of dark fantasy author Caitlín R. Kiernan, including appearances in her fifth novel Daughter of Hounds, her work on the DC/Vertigo comic book The Dreaming (#47, "Trinket"), and many of her short stories, including "Valentia" and "Onion" (both collected in To Charles Fort, With Love, 2005).
- Several scenes in the 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow were set in the Museum's halls.
- As the "New York Museum of Natural History", the Museum is a favorite setting in many Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child novels, including Relic, Reliquary, The Cabinet of Curiosities, and The Book of the Dead. F.B.I. Special Agent Aloysius X. L. Pendergast plays a major role in all of these thrillers. Preston was actually manager of publications at the Museum before embarking upon his fiction writing career.
- The title of Noah Baumbach's 2005 film The Squid and the Whale refers to a diorama in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. The diorama is shown at the end of the film.
- Other novels in which the AMNH is featured include Murder at the Museum of Natural History by Michael Jahn (1994), Funny Bananas: The Mystery in the Museum by Georgess McHargue (1975), The Bone Vault by Linda Fairstein (2003) and a brief scene in Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem (1999).
- An ending for the film We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story shows all four dinosaurs finally reaching the AMNH.
- The AMNH is featured in the film An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island. Fievel Mousekewitz and Tony Toponi go to the AMNH to meet Dr. Dithering to decipher a treasure map they have found in an abandoned subway.
- A scene from the biographic film Malcolm X was filmed in the hall with prehistoric elephants.
- The AMNH is featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV where it is known as the Liberty State Natural History Museum.
- In the fourth volume of Mirage's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Michelangelo acts as a tour guide for visiting aliens. His first assignment is the Saurian Regenta Seri and her Styracodon bodyguards who wish to see the Museum, specifically the dinosaur exhibit.
- The Museum was the setting for the 1970 novel The Great Dinosaur Robbery by David Forrest, but was not featured in the film adaptation One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing, which was set in the Natural History Museum in London, England.
- In 2009, the Museum hosted the live finale of the second season of The Celebrity Apprentice.
- In a second season episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man titled "Destructive Testing", Spider-Man fights Kraven the Hunter in the Museum.
- An episode of Mad About You entitled Natural History is set in the museum.
 Neighboring area
The museum is situated in a 17 acre park known as "Theodore Roosevelt Park". The park contains pleasant park benches, beautiful gardens and fields, and a dog run. This small park has made the area around the museum very desirable and some of the most expensive real estate in the Upper West Side (even more so after the completion of the renovation of the southern-facing museum facade) lies in this area. In 2007 it was not uncommon to see museum facing apartments sell for as much as $2000 per square foot. Additionally, the museum is surrounded by many gourmet restaurants that have outdoor cafes where patrons can sit outside and enjoy the view.