What Is the American Museum of Natural History?

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  • Written By: L. Whitaker
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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The American Museum of Natural History is an educational complex situated in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City. Established in 1869, its features include a planetarium and library in addition to 45 halls of permanent exhibits. This museum is comprised of more than two dozen buildings occupying the majority of Manhattan Square, located across from Central Park. Throughout its history, the American Museum of Natural History has sponsored worldwide expeditions for research and procuring artifacts, millions of which are now displayed or stored on the museum grounds. With a permanent staff of more than 200 scientists, the American Museum of Natural History continues to organize numerous international expeditions every year.

Some of the permanent exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History have been enjoyed by several generations of visitors. The museum houses the largest vertebrate fossil collection in the world, much of which is on display in the Fossil Halls, which were renovated in the 1990s to build a fourth-floor loop illustrating the evolution of vertebrate life. Another longtime feature of the American Museum of Natural History is a blue whale model that is 94 feet (about 28.65 m) in length, centrally featured in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life on the museum's first floor. This museum has also been noted for its artistic and scientifically correct dioramas depicting nature scenes.


The Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites is a unique feature of the American Museum of Natural History. One of the meteorites exhibited here, called Ahnighito, is the largest displayed meteorite at any museum location worldwide. This specimen weighs 34 tons (more than 30,844 kg) and is physically supported by columns extending into bedrock beneath the museum's foundation. A seasonal butterfly exhibit is generally open in the winter months, beginning in October. The museum's illuminated spherical planetarium is located within the Rose Center for Earth and Space, which also offers exhibits about space exploration and related topics.

Some programs or exhibits require separate admission, which can be purchased in advance. Hourly guided tours are available daily, although floor plans are provided for those who wish to explore at their own pace. For visitors with special needs, the museum offers special touchable exhibits, written transcripts of featured film exhibits, and wheelchair rentals, in addition to standard accessibility features throughout the facility. The American Museum of Natural History can be reached via subway, bus, or car. It is open every day beginning at 10 a.m.


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