Being so close to New York City, an avid museum-goer such as myself could not miss the opportunity to visit the institutions that are so close by. With the Metropolitan Museum of Art successfully crossed off from my list of places to visit, the American Museum of Natural History was naturally the next stop.
After climbing the flight of stone stairs outside and entering the main hall, there stood a skeletal model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex from eras gone by. There was a certain juxtaposition involved: humans and dinosaurs. Our species and theirs have never coexisted, yet the museum acted as the equalizer for both of us to finally meet.
The first room we visited was Akeley Hall of African Mammals, filled with taxidermy creatures that lived behind glass walls lining the wall. In the center stood a life-size herd of elephants, with calves holding on to their mother’s tails. I was taken aback by the extraordinary detail, and I just had to take a picture right by them. Each little exhibition had an information card detailing whether the species is extinct today, along with some additional facts.
Next was an exhibit on the animals of the ocean. The centerpiece of this exhibit was a massive whale that hung from the ceiling. It was a mesmerizing view, and as you looked at the similarly structured glass exhibits, the whale continued to watch. It made me feel as if I were in the ocean along with it.
In addition, there was a floor dedicated to the dinosaurs and modern animal skeletons. It spoke to the great power of fossils in recreating the past and the history of the earth that was shared by so many species before us. There was an ancient fossil of a dinosaur in one corner, and that of a modern-day rabbit in the other. Even I had to admit that the spacing was odd, but it all contributed to the overall theme of interconnectedness in the natural world. The charts of the different conditions the earth went through, such as the Ice Age, offered explanations to the shifts that occurred in the animal kingdom.
Personally, one of the most memorable aspects of the museum was the relationship that President Theodore Roosevelt had with this museum. Upon entering, I immediately felt his presence. Quotes by Roosevelt were spelled out on four grand walls in the foyer of the museum. Throughout the museum there stood memorials to him, especially the bronze statue of him casually sitting on a bench in rugged clothing with a pair of binoculars around his neck, which is placed in the center of a hall. The museum pointed out the great contribution, both financial and physical, that Roosevelt gave in order to preserve his own personal admiration for the natural world. It is thanks to him that so much of our own natural American landscape has been left untouched. He set around 230 million acres of land under federal protection. National parks such as Yosemite National Park exist thanks to him. I thought the museum was a noble memorial for an individual who contributed so much to this country.
Students will be glad to know that admission to the museum is free with a valid student ID, but you may choose to give a donation instead and still be welcome into the exhibitions.
I would recommend this museum to any avid biologists or historians because there is something for both parties. Either way, it makes for a full day of cultural immersion.