American Museum of Natural History
Facade of the east entrance from Central Park West
Map
EstablishedApril 6, 1869; 154 years ago (1869-04-06)[1]
Location200 Central Park West
New York, N.Y. 10024
United States
Coordinates40°46′51″N 73°58′28″W / 40.78083°N 73.97444°W / 40.78083; -73.97444
TypePrivate 501(c)(3) organization
Natural history museum
Visitors5 million (2018)[2]
DirectorLisa Gugenheim
PresidentSean M. Decatur[3]
Public transit accessNew York City Bus:
M7, M10, M11, M79
New York City Subway:
"B" train"C" train trains at 81st Street–Museum of Natural History
"1" train train at 79th Street
Websitewww.amnh.org Edit this at Wikidata
American Museum of Natural History
Built1874; 150 years ago (1874)
NRHP reference No.76001235[4]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJune 24, 1976
Designated NYCLAugust 24, 1967

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is a natural history museum on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City.[5] Located in Theodore Roosevelt Park, across the street from Central Park, the museum complex comprises 20 interconnected buildings housing 45 permanent exhibition halls, in addition to a planetarium and a library. The museum collections contain about 35 million specimens[6] of plants, animals, fungi, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, of which only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time. The museum occupies more than 2,500,000 sq ft (232,258 m2). AMNH has a full-time scientific staff of 225, sponsors over 120 special field expeditions each year,[7] and averages about five million visits annually.[8]

The AMNH is a private 501(c)(3) organization.[5] The naturalist Albert S. Bickmore devised the idea for the American Museum of Natural History in 1861, and, after several years of advocacy, the museum opened within Central Park's Arsenal on May 22, 1871. The museum's first purpose-built structure in Theodore Roosevelt Park was designed by Calvert Vaux and J. Wrey Mould and opened on December 22, 1877. Numerous wings have been added over the years, including the main entrance pavilion (named for Theodore Roosevelt) in 1936 and the Rose Center for Earth and Space in 2000.

History

See also: List of castles in the United States

Founding

Akeley Hall of African Mammals

Akeley Hall of African Mammals
James L. Clark (right) and assistants mount specimens for the "Lions" diorama

Named after taxidermist Carl Akeley, the Akeley Hall of African Mammals is a two-story hall on the second floor, directly west of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. It connects to the Hall of African Peoples to the west.[9] The Hall of African Mammals' 28 dioramas depict in meticulous detail the great range of ecosystems found in Africa and the mammals endemic to them. The centerpiece of the hall is a pack of eight African elephants in a characteristic 'alarmed' formation.[10] Though the mammals are typically the main feature in the dioramas, birds and flora of the regions are occasionally featured as well.[11] The hall in its current form was completed in 1936.[12][13]


The Hall of African Mammals was first proposed to the museum by Carl Akeley around 1909; he proposed 40 dioramas featuring the rapidly vanishing landscapes and animals of Africa. Daniel Pomeroy, a trustee of the museum and partner at J.P. Morgan & Co., offered investors the opportunity to accompany the museum's expeditions in Africa in exchange for funding.[14] Akeley began collecting specimens for the hall as early as 1909, famously encountering Theodore Roosevelt in the midst of the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African expedition.[15] On these early expeditions, Akeley was accompanied by his former apprentice in taxidermy, James L. Clark, and artist, William R. Leigh.[14] When Akeley returned to Africa to collect gorillas for the hall's first diorama, Clark remained behind and began scouring the country for artists to create the backgrounds. The eventual appearance of the first habitat groups impacted the design of other diorama halls, including Birds of the World, the Hall of North American Mammals, the Vernay Hall of Southeast Asian Mammals, and the Hall of Oceanic Life.[14]


After Akeley's unexpected death during the Eastman-Pommeroy expedition in 1926, responsibility of the hall's completion fell to James L. Clark, who hired architectural artist James Perry Wilson in 1933 to assist Leigh in the painting of backgrounds. Wilson made many improvements on Leigh's techniques, including a range of methods to minimize the distortion caused by the dioramas' curved walls.[14] In 1936, William Durant Campbell, a wealthy board member with a desire to see Africa, offered to fund several dioramas if allowed to obtain the specimens himself. Clark agreed to this arrangement, resulting in the acquisition of numerous large specimens.[14][16] Kane joined Leigh, Wilson, and several other artists in completing the hall's remaining dioramas.[17] Though construction of the hall was completed in 1936,[12][13] the dioramas gradually opened between the mid-1920s and early 1940s.[17]