American Museum of Natural History is the largest natural history museum in the world, located in New York City. Covering several city blocks, the museum’s interconnected buildings house dozens of exhibition halls, various research laboratories, teaching facilities, and a natural history research library containing 485,000 volumes.
Since 1871 the museum has sponsored more than 1,000 scientific expeditions worldwide, amassing a collection of 32 million specimens and artifacts. The museum’s exhibitions explore anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, geology, mineralogy, paleontology, and biology. Notable anthropological halls include the Hall of South American Peoples, Hall of Asian Peoples, Hall of African Peoples, Peoples of the Pacific, the Hall of Mexico and Central America, and three halls devoted to the indigenous peoples of North America. The Hall of Human Biology and Evolution examines the heritage human beings share with other living things, traces the complex pattern of human evolution, and explores the qualities that make human beings unique.
A number of displays depicting species in their natural habitats appear in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals, the Hall of Oceanic Birds, the Hall of North American Mammals, and the Hall of Ocean Life and Biology of Fishes, which contains a 28.7-m (94-ft) replica of a blue whale. This model is the largest of its type in the world. The Hall of Biodiversity features a walk-through, life-size diarama that recreates the sights, sounds, and smells of the Dzanga-Sangha tropical rainforest of the Central African Republic.
A seven-year renovation and reorganization of the museum’s famed dinosaur and fossil halls was completed in 1996. The six fossil halls house more than 600 specimens and draw on more than a century of research by the museum’s scientists to tell the story of the evolution of vertebrates. The five-story-high exhibit of Barosaurus, a plant-eating dinosaur, is the world’s tallest freestanding dinosaur exhibit.
One of the museum’s most popular attractions is the Rose Center for Earth and Space, which was completed in 2000. The center features a variety of exhibits on astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, and geology. The center’s main building is a seven-story-high cube of glass and steel. The cube houses the Hayden Sphere, a 27-m (87-ft) diameter aluminum sphere that replaced the old Hayden Planetarium in operation from 1935 to 1997. The top half of the sphere holds the Space Theater, a planetarium with advanced computer projection systems; the bottom half houses the Big Bang Theater, where visual and audio effects recreate the beginning of the universe. Other exhibits in the Rose Center include Cullman Hall of the Universe, featuring discoveries in modern astrophysics, and the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth, which explores the Earth’s evolution and geology.
The American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869 by a group of public-spirited Americans led by Albert S. Bickmore, the founding president. The group also included businessman Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., the financier John Pierpont Morgan, and the writer and editor Charles Anderson Dana. The museum was first housed in a Central Park building known as the Arsenal. It was moved to its present site in 1877. The original American Museum-Hayden Planetarium was completed in 1935, and another notable addition, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Building, was completed in 1936. The museum receives financial support from the city of New York.