Our friends Scott and Angela finally managed to get into New York late Friday evening, and after a surprise breakfast (Angela had no idea we were in New York and that we’d meet them) we decided on a day at the American Museum of Natural History.
Like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this is a massive museum dedicated to all things from the natural world. It is, in fact, a veritable campus of buildings (nearly 30) and exhibit halls (45) across the street from Central Park. The exhibits draw from the museum’s collection of 32 million (give or take a few) artifacts, from plants, meteors, dinosaur bones, animals, fossils, human cultural specimens, not to mention a planetarium and library. Oh, and as an added bonus, from time to time all of the exhibits come to life in the middle of the night.
|Spiral Walkway Up To The Hayden Planetarium|
|The Willamette Meteorite, Beneath the Hayden Planetarium|
This is another museum that could take days to adequately explore, yet we had only one day. Our tour began with the Hayden Planetarium and a great presentation on the origins of the universe, narrated by physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. From there we wandered through the Hall of Planet Earth, through the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, and lingered in the grand, 2-story Hall of Ocean Life.
Speaking of Theodore Roosevelt, it’s worth a quick sidebar to point out the contribution of our 26th President to the American Museum of Natural History. Fans of the movie series know that Teddy Roosevelt (played by Robin Williams) is displayed at the museum, but might not understand why. Theodore Roosevelt Sr. (the President’s father) was a founder of the museum. Doubtless Teddy Roosevelt grew up in a family that considered themselves naturalists, as defined in 19th century terms. Americans know of Roosevelt’s reputation as an outdoorsman, especially the famous legend that he refused to shoot a bear cub (supposedly the origin of the term “Teddy Bear”), and rightly so: while he is often miscredited with founding our national park system (that was actually Abraham Lincoln in 1864), he did greatly expand it during his presidency. He was a true environmentalist, who personally collected thousands of artifacts and specimens he contributed to the museum, so it might come as a surprise (especially to Democrats) to learn that Roosevelt was a Republican.
But what most people (especially the kids and kids-at-heart, like us) come to the American Museum of Natural History to see are…dinosaur bones (except Scott, who came to see monkeys). And there is no shortage of dino-bones and fossils on display, very thoughtfully arranged in historical order from the earliest fossils, following evolution, to the later fossils and ultimately to modern birds.
Unless you do like us and enter the hall from the wrong end and go backwards in time. Just pay better attention than we did to the signs when you visit.