The American Museum of Natural History, right across the street from Central Park in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is known for being more than just an especially large museum. It’s also a major landmark, an architectural marvel, a pop culture icon, and a leading scientific and cultural institution. That’s a lot of praise for what appears to be just one building. However, if you’ve ever explored it in person, you would know it’s almost criminal to refer to it as simply “one building”. The American Museum of Natural History is much more. It’s a massive and sprawling dedication to life, the cultures it has produced, the history it has left, and the earth it resides in. Expect to find here a microcosm of the world itself—not just one, simple building.
The idea of a natural history museum in New York gained ground in 1869 after winning the support of influential men like Theodore Roosevelt Sr. Quickly, in that same year, the Governor of New York officially signed the American Museum of Natural History into existence. It wasn’t until 1877, however, with the opening of the iconic Victorian Gothic building, that the museum as we know it was born to the public. But that museum of 1877 is a fraction of what stands today. It would take several more decades before the museum would add all of its 45 permanent exhibit halls. Even then, construction didn’t stop. In fact, as a research institution, construction doesn’t technically ever stop. After all, science is always advancing and the museum must keep up with the times. Even today, the museum constantly adds new exhibits, maintaining plenty of modernity and excitement despite its aged façade.
What to expect at AMNH
Within the museum are 45 permanent and thematically unique halls. The Mammal Halls, for example, is a hub of exhibition halls dedicated entirely to mammal species and evolution. It is here where you can find the Hall of Primates, the Akeley Hall of African Mammals, the Hall of Asian Mammals and much more.
The Biodiversity and Environmental Halls will leave visitors in awe of the amazing variety and beauty of life on Earth. It is within these halls that the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life resides. This hall features the famous 94-foot-long and 21,000 pound blue whale model.
Within the Fossil Halls is the largest collection of mammal and dinosaur fossils. There is no shortage of wonder and amazement here, as you wander around dozens of life size dinosaur reconstructions.
Within the Human Halls, is the museum’s dedication to humanity. These exhibits explore our evolutionary history and cultural heritage. As you explore, you might recognize the Easter Island Head (Dum Dum) from the Night at the Museum films.
The Museum is a favorite among kids as well. Children are guaranteed to be inspired and captivated by the over 33 million lifelike and colorful specimens on display. In addition, the educational Discovery Room helps to foster scientific curiosity and appreciation among kids. The activities there are tailored to children between the ages 5 and 12.
But that’s just a fraction of what is in store at the AMNH. Every facet of life is covered extensively within its exhibitions. There’s the Birds and Reptiles and Amphibian Halls, then the Earth and Planetary Sciences Halls, the Ross Center for Earth and Space, the Hayden Planetarium… and so much more. There’s simply no shortage of things to see and do. I think it’s safe to say that this grand and old museum has now become an important piece of the past that it so zealously adores.