The American Museum of Natural History was scheduled for Sunday morning on our long weekend itinerary, and we used our New York Pass by GoCity for admission. We arrived at 9:45am for the 10am opening, and the entry line had started to wrap around the museum along Central Park. For an hour we were able to leisurely explore the museum with few other people, but by late afternoon some halls were extremely crowded. With just a four-hour visit, we had to skip most of the second floor; to see everything we would have needed a full day.
First Floor: Gems, Meteorites and Evolution
Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins
The museum has a cast of Lucy, the famous 3.18-million-year-old nearly complete early hominid skeleton (The real skeleton is in Ethiopia).
First Floor Galleries- Gems, Minerals & Meteorites
Our first stops were the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals and the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites. Because it was still early, it was nice to have less crowded galleries and to be able to linger longer by our favorite shiny objects.
First Floor: Biodiversity Galleries
Hall of Biodiversity
The Hall of Biodiversity offered a different method of interpretation than the adjacent galleries; instead of using dioramas to place things in replicas of their natural settings, the objects were arranged artfully to illustrate the similarities and uniqueness of Earths’ plants and animals.
Hall of North American Forests
While many of the galleries are updated, several still harken back to a day of “diorama + written interpretation = exhibit.” I still enjoy seeing these spaces when they are in world-class institutions; It makes me feel like I am in a “museum of museums”.
Third Floor Cultural Halls
The Hall of Pacific Peoples, Hall of the Great Plains, and Hall of Eastern Woodlands were each packed with information and artifacts from indigenous cultures around the world.
We did have time to visit the second floor cultural collections, including the Halls of Asian Peoples, African Peoples, and South American Peoples.
Northwest Coast Hall
The recently updated Northwest Coast Hall showcased artwork, tools, and other cultural items from the 10 indigenous tribes of the American Pacific Northwest. Interactive kiosks featured members of the communities sharing their history, language, and contemporary culture.
Fourth Floor- Dinosaurs to Mammals
Primitive & Advanced Mammals
The displays of fossilized skeletons of the early mammals encouraged us to guess which ones were ancestors of those still alive today.
Vertebrate Origins & Dinosaurs
The dinosaur tour on the fourth floor began with the Titanosaur, one of the newest exhibits. The number of dinosaur fossils was overwhelming; our favorite section focused on the way the head shapes were adapted to help with specific activities, including head butting.
Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway
We exited the movie onto a circular path that took us from the Bing Bang through the history of the solar system’s major astronomical events and and back to the first floor of the museum.
Hayden Big Bang Theater
Our space adventure began with a short film experience inside a spherical theater. Liam Neeson narrated the story of the “cosmic microwave” that was responsible for the start of our universe. (Full disclosure; I can’t recap the movie because I spent most of it lost in the thought that I couldn’t remember ever hearing the term “cosmic microwave” in my first 40+ years of life.)