Imagine walking through a primordial forest and coming face to face with a Mammoth or a ferocious T-Rex. What would you do? Would you run or would you stop and have your friends take your picture with them? Well, that’s what happened to me, along with my friends Russ and Jody, when we went to the Museum of Natural History in New York City on August 17, 2012. And although some of the exhibits were rather frightening, we stood our ground and took lots of pictures.
The American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869, as a result of the dream of naturalist Dr. Albert S. Bickmore. Before being transferred to its present location facing Central Park, it was housed in the Arsenal Building in the Park itself. The Museum is one of the top museums in the world and hosts more than 5 million visitors per year that visit its 46 permanent exhibition halls as well as special exhibitions that are there on a temporary basis.
As the three of us entered the museum we came face to face with the skeleton of a mother Barosaurus in the act of defending her young from the attack of an Allosaurus (see first 2 photos in prehistoric photo album). We then entered the prehistoric hall and were privileged to see a wide variety of dinosaur skeletons as well as other prehistoric creatures. There is also a photo of myself with a Mammoth, which was taken to prove that there was indeed something larger than myself.
It was particularly interesting for us to note that although many animals of that period were much larger than their modern day descendants, there were also many that were very small in comparison. Among the prehistoric mammals we found was the first known “horse” or eohippus. I first read about the eohippus when I was in the first grade, and had always wanted to see one. In a way, it was the answer to a life-long dream. There were mammoths, mastodons, armadillos (both gigantic and miniscule) and many other types of animals.
I think that one of the most interesting parts of the section was the “fish and fowl” section. Looking at those flying dinosaurs was amazing. Pterodactyls, and other “birds” flew above the visitors. I particularly enjoyed seeing the prehistoric frog (mastadonsaurus giganteus) – whoever has read my book knows of my love of frogs and toads. There were even prehistoric shark jaws that would have made a modern day great white shark jealous.
Perhaps the most beautiful of the exhibitions that we saw that day was the African Mammals Hall. The animals on exhibit are the real deal, prepared by taxidermists so good that you would think that they were alive. But the truly amazing part of the exhibitions are the dioramas behind the animals: they are so realistic that you almost forget that you are inside a building instead of on the African Savannah.
We also spent a few minutes inside the reptile and amphibian house, although I seemed to be the only one with any real interest. Among other things there is also a giant Galapagos tortoise.
There are so many things to see that it is impossible to see everything in one day; it would more realistically take 3-4 days, just for the regular exhibits. Extra days would be necessary for the special exhibitions, which are very interesting, too. Although we actually saw only three exhibits while there, we most certainly plan on going back to see others, hopefully very soon. The Astronomy Hall, the Sea exhibits (including a series of videos) the New York State Natural History and others are calling to me. I’ll let you know when we go.