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 sq m). 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 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. 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.
African Mammal Hall:
Since its opening in 1936, the Akeley Hall has been considered by many to be one of the world's greatest museum displays. The hall is named after Carl Akeley (1864–1926), the explorer, conservationist, taxidermist, sculptor and photographer who conceived of, designed and created the hall. Akeley led teams of scientists and artists on three expeditions to Africa during the first two decades of the 20th century, wherein he and his colleagues carefully studied, catalogued, and collected the plants and animals that even then were disappearing. He brought many specimens from the expeditions back to the Museum, and used them to create the hall, with its twenty-eight dioramas.
Arthur Ross 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 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-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.
Bernard and Anne Spitzer Hall of Human Origins :
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 exhibition 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.
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.
Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals :
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 6 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" - New York Times, April 14, 1977
Milstein 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 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.
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.
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.
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.