The museum is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in Theodore Roosevelt Park right across the street from Central Park.
The American Museum of Natural History occupies more than 186,000 square meters (2,000,000 square feet). It is one of the largest museums in the world.
The museum complex comprises 28 interconnected buildings housing 45 permanent exhibition halls, in addition to a planetarium and a library.
The museum collections contain over 33 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural artifacts, of which only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time.
The museum was founded in 1869 by some of New York City’s wealthiest men, who hoped a natural history museum would impart prestige to their city and educate the working classes about the laws of nature. As with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened in 1870, the American Museum of Natural History soon became one of the pet philanthropies of the New York aristocracy.
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.
Before construction of the present complex, the museum was housed in the Arsenal building in Central Park.
In 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant laid the cornerstone for the museum’s permanent home, which opened in 1877.
Today, the Department of Mammalogy houses over 275,000 specimens, making it the third largest collection of recent mammals in the world. The museum contain five mammal halls: Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, Akeley Hall of African Mammals, Hall of Asian Mammals, Hall of New York State Mammals, Hall of Primates, Hall of Small Mammals.
The Department of Ornithology maintains one of the largest collections of bird specimens in the world. The research collections of the Department number nearly one million specimens; these include skins, skeletons, alcoholic preparations, eggs, nests, and tissue samples for molecular biochemical studies
The American Museum of Natural History has one of the greatest dinosaur fossil collections in the world. The public’s favorites include the Tyrannosaurus rex and Apatosaurus. But, most of the museum’s collections of dinosaur fossils remain hidden from public view. They are kept in numerous storage areas located deep within the museum complex.
The Hall of Human Origins explores the evolutionary story of the human family, while the Cultural Halls examine the cultures of Asia, Africa, North and South America, and the Pacific.
The Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians serves as an introduction to herpetology, with many exhibits detailing reptile evolution, anatomy, diversity, reproduction, and behavior. Notable exhibits include a komodo dragon group, an American alligator, Lonesome George, the last Pinta island tortise, and poison dart frogs.
The Biodiversity and Environmental Halls offer a vivid and inspiring vision of the spectacular beauty and abundance of life on Earth.
The Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites contains some of the finest specimens in the world including Ahnighito, a section of the 180 tonne (200 US ton) Cape York meteorite which was found at the location of the same name in Greenland. The meteorite’s great weight—at 34 tons, it is 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 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. On display are many renowned samples that are chosen from among the museum’s more than 100,000 pieces.
The Rose Center for Earth and Space is a part of the American Museum of Natural History. Completed in 2000, it includes the new Hayden Planetarium, the original of which was opened in 1935 and closed in 1997. The Space Show in the Hayden Planetarium uses state-of-the-art technology to communicate cutting-edge science. A digital video system projects across the theater’s 20-meter (67-foot) -wide hemispheric dome, and every seat has an amazing view.
The Museum is home to the official New York State memorial to New York’s 33rd Governor and the nation’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt. The two-story Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, which includes the Central Park West entrance, the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, is a tribute to the enduring legacy of the Conservation President.
The museum has a 485,000-volume library on natural history, as well as photo, film, and manuscript collections.
As one of the world’s preeminent scientific research institutions, the museum sponsors more than 100 field expeditions each year, including ongoing research projects in Chile, China, Cuba, French Guiana, Madagascar, Mongolia and New Guinea. It maintains three permanent field stations: Great Gull Island, St. Catherine’s Island and the Southwestern Research Station.
The one mission statement of the American Museum of Natural History is: “To discover, interpret, and disseminate—through scientific research and education—knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the Universe.”
The museum averages about five million visits annually.
The museum in the film Night at the Museum (2006) is based on a 1993 book that was set at the AMNH (The Night at the Museum). The interior scenes were shot at a sound stage in Vancouver, British Columbia, but exterior shots of the museum’s façade were done at the actual AMNH.
The exterior of AMNH was used in a benefit party scene in the film The Devil Wears Prada (2006).
The planetarium is briefly seen in the film K-PAX starring Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges.
On early seasons of Friends, Ross Geller works at the museum.