American Museum of Natural History in New York City
The American Museum of Natural History (abbreviated as AMNH), located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States, 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 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 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. 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 ft along West 77th Street, with corner towers 150 ft 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. 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 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 ft 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 333500 sqft 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 1800 sqft Weston Pavilion, a 43 ft 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 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 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.
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.
AMNH's education programs include outreach to schools in New York city by the Moveable Museum.
The Museum is located at 79th Street and Central Park West, accessible via the 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 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 AMNH is featured in the film '. 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.
- The Central Park West facade and the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life were featured in the 1984 film Splash when the characters played by Tom Hanks, John Candy, and Eugene Levy were heading into the secret laboratory where the mermaid Madison, played by Daryl Hannah, was being held and experimented upon. The exterior was used again during their escape.
- Several scenes in the 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow were set in the Museum's halls.
- A scene in John Boorman's ' is set before one of the dioramas.
- A scene from the biographic film Malcolm X was filmed in the Hall of African Mammals.
- The Museum appeared in the film The Nanny Diaries.
- 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 was partially set in this museum.
- 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.
- 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 video game Grand Theft Auto IV where it is known as the Liberty State Natural History Museum.
- The AMNH appears as a Resistance-controlled building in the Sierra game '.
- Portions of the Sony PlayStation game Parasite Eve take place within the AMNH.
- A version of this museum was included in Ghostbusters The Video Game as one of the nodes
AMNH is featured in numerous books, short stories, and comic books.
- The novel The Bone Vault, by Linda Fairstein (2003), features the museum.
- 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.
- The novel Murder at the Museum of Natural History, by Michael Jahn (1994), features the museum.
- 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).
- A brief scene in the novel Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem (1999), features the museum.
- The novel Funny Bananas: The Mystery in the Museum, by Georgess McHargue (1975), features the museum.
- 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.
- In J. D. Salinger's novel 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 2009, the Museum hosted the live finale of the second season of The Celebrity Apprentice.
- The museum is featured in the Dinosaur King episode, "The Big Apple Grapple".
- On early seasons of Friends, Ross Geller works at the Museum.
- The museum is featured in the How I Met Your Mother episode Natural History, although it is renamed the Natural History Museum.
- An episode of Mad About You, titled "Natural History", is set in the museum.
- In a second season episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man titled "Destructive Testing", Spider-Man fights Kraven the Hunter in the Museum.
- 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.
- In the episode , both the Quickfire Challenge and Elimination Challenge required the cheftestants to cook at the American Museum of Natural History.
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.
- Education in New York City
- List of museums and cultural institutions in New York City
- Margaret Mead Film Festival
- AMNH American Museum of Natural History main website
- American Museum of Natural History at About.com
- Seminars on Science Online graduate science courses for educators
- OLogy AMNH's site for kids devoted to the various kinds of studies.
- Early history of the AMNH
- AMNH Research department websites
- Museum shop with a wide variety of gifts categorized by kind and price range.
- Library collection is searchable online.
- Anthropology Division online databases.
- American Museum of Natural History's YouTube Channel - Official AMNH's YouTube information channel.
- AMNH Southwest Research Station