The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s
preeminent scientific and cultural institutions. Since its founding in
1869, the Museum has advanced its global mission to discover, interpret,
and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural world,
and the universe through a wide-ranging program of scientific research,
education, and exhibition. The Museum is renowned for its
exhibitions and scientific collections, which serve as a field guide to
the entire planet and present a panorama of the world's cultures. Here you can explore some of the iconic features of the Museum!
The Great Canoe
What do you need to make a canoe? One really big cedar tree. Carved from a single tree in the 1870s by First Nations people on Canada's Northwest Coast, this dugout canoe is one of the longest in existence. Below: Children viewing the Great Canoe in 1962.
Pacific Northwest Coast Peoples
The Hall of Northwest Coast Indians highlights the traditional cultures of the native peoples of North America’s northwest shores from Washington State to southern Alaska, including the Kwakwaka’wakw (referred to in the hall as Kwakiutl), Haida, Tlingit, and others.The Museum’s oldest hall opened in 1900 to showcase the collections and research of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, led from 1897 to 1902 by Museum curator and prominent anthropologist Franz Boas, who is often called the father of American anthropology. While highlights from the Museum's collection of artifacts from the Pacific Northwest Coast are on display in the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians, more than 13,000 objects are kept in storage in the Division of Anthropology. Join Curator of North American Ethnology Peter Whiteley as he leads a tour of the collections, which includes a giant Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw whale mask, a Chilkat blanket with three different interpretations of its abstract symbolism, and a Haida/Tsimshian raven rattle.
These hominids were made for walking. Walking on two legs, or "bipedalism," is a key characteristic defining humans and a big evolutionary leap for human ancestors. But what an odd way to walk and run! The female is based on Lucy, the famed fossil that provided evidence for early bipedalism.
Largest meteorite on display in any museum. Touch a chunk of iron from space! This meteorite is a piece of an even bigger rock that burst as it tore through our atmosphere. Below: Boy studying meteorite, Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites, 1911.
New kid on the block. Half a block long. This Titanosaur—a gigantic sauropod dinosaur—is so big that it can't fit in the gallery. "Meet the Titanosaur" in the video below showcases the dinosaur's journey to the Museum.
Titanosaur skin, discovered in Patagonia, August 25, 2009.
This first fossil of embryonic dinosaur skin ever found, belonging to a South American dinosaur called a titanosaur, was discovered by an expedition to Patagonia sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History.
Star of India
There’s beauty in imperfection. Need proof? The iconic "star" in this 563-carat sapphire on display in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems is technically a flaw, created by trace amounts of the mineral rutile.
Above: Also in the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems is the largest topaz on display anywhere in the world. This huge 596-pound gem is lit from below to emphasize its pale yellow color.
Below: Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond Unveiled at Museum While no longer on display, the Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond was unveiled at the American Museum of Natural History for public view in 2010 in the Museum's Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals. The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond is an extraordinary 31.06-carat natural fancy deep blue diamond that was on display at the Museum, courtesy of Laurence Graff.
A really big honor. Residents of a South Pacific island carved hundreds of towering stone moai ("MO-eye") statues like this one to honor ancestors.
Above: Dr. Shapiro and Dr. Clark with cast of Easter Island statue, Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples, 1935.
Below: Inside the collections—Pacific Peoples. While the artifacts on display in the Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples highlight the diverse cultures of Pacific Islands, they represent only a small sample of the 26,000 objects in the collections of the Museum's Division of Anthropology.
Join curator of Pacific Ethnology Jennifer Newell on a tour of some collections highlights, including lei niho palaoa, Hawaiian pendants made of braided human hair and whale's tooth; a carved bird head from Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island; and an introduction to a whale-riding Maori ancestor figure known as Paikea.
This tree grew for more than 1,300 years. Felled by a lumber company in 1891, this tree was nicknamed for author Mark Twain. When the tree sprouted around AD 550, the English language didn't even exist!
Section of giant sequoia, the "Big Tree," Hall of North American Forests, 1941
Moving section of giant sequoia, "Big Tree," into Hall of North American Forests, 1912.
One (really, really) big, happy family. Elephants live in herds led by the oldest female. Males drift between herds, but females form tight bonds and help raise each other's young.
Carl Akeley standing with the big bull elephant he mounted for the central group The Alarm, now featured as part of the elephant herd in the center of the Museum's Akeley Hall of African Mammals.
Art students, Akeley Hall of African Mammals, 1956.
Spectrum of Life
It takes all kinds. Imagine the diversity of life on Earth, with some 1.7 million species known so far. Around 1,500 of these living things are gathered here. Eleanor Sterling, chief conservation scientist for the Museum's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, discusses the importance of biodiversity in the video below.
Milstein Hall of Ocean Life
The Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life highlights the drama of the undersea world and its diverse and complex web of life in a fully immersive marine environment. The hall is home to one of the Museum’s most celebrated displays—a 94-foot-long, 21,000-pound model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling. It’s the largest animal on Earth. In fact, the blue whale is the biggest animal ever known to have existed.
Above: Watch the Whale Wash.
Below: Another Milstein Hall of Ocean Life highlight is the giant squid and sperm whale diorama. It’s deep. It’s dark. And the giant squid and the sperm whale are facing off—in the fight of the century.
Look up—you've just walked into an ancient battle. In the world's tallest freestanding dinosaur mount, a Barosaurus rears up to defend her young from an Allosaurus. The American Museum of Natural History began the process of separating two long-time combatants—Barosaurus and Allosaurus skeletons—that have shared the same display mount in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda since they were first installed in 1991. The separation kicked off with curator Mark Norell overseeing the first ceremonial cut in the mount. By the end of the six-week project, an eight-food-wide pathway had been cut through the dinosaur mount to allow visitors to walk between the towering Barosaurus and Allosaurus for the first time.
Meet one of the most iconic dinosaurs in the world. The Museum's T. rex is a prime example of one of the largest, most powerful carnivores ever to walk the Earth.
You might, also, recognize the Museum's T. rex in the video below: The Real Exhibits Behind the Night At the Museum Movies.
To experience even more of the American Museum of Natural History, (AMNH) download the Museum's app, Explorer. Enjoy behind-the-scenes stories about exhibits, captivating interactives, stimulating quizzes and start planning your visit!
From centuries-old specimens to entirely new types of specialized collections like frozen tissues and genomic data, the Museum's scientific collections (with more than 33,000,000 specimens and artifacts) form an irreplaceable record of life on Earth, the span of geologic time, and knowledge about our vast universe.
Want to go behind the scenes? Shelf Life is a collection for curious minds—opening doors, pulling out drawers, and taking the lids off some of the incredible, rarely-seen items in the American Museum of Natural History.
Check out the first episode of Shelf Life below!