Opening the archive: American Museum of Natural History

Merin in Mongolia 1928


Roy Chapman Andrews 1928

When I was a book editor in New York, we had a licensing partnership with the American Museum of Natural History and I had the luck of being assigned to work on some projects that required me to go visit the offices and sneak peeks behind the scenes. In fact, when I left (when Hudson was born) I was in the middle of creating a new children’s guide to the museum, and had just finished editing a book on butterflies and moths.

I wrote about my experiences a bit, here, but I’m going to be a tad obnoxious and quote myself about visiting the photo files in the museum’s research library:
“Our librarian/guide began flipping through plastic sleeved contact prints in the vertebrate paleontology section, pulling up images such as those of horse-drawn covered wagons carrying scientists on a fossil-hunting trip into Utah in the 1870s! In fact, when the tour was over, we all came back to these stacks to flip through on our own. I particularly enjoyed the drawers of historical images documenting the creation of the museum—like the ones above that show curators creating dioramas, or the many great shots of Central Park, before the great lawn existed and when sheep still grazed its grasses.”

Well, yesterday, the American Museum of Natural History opened their digital archive to the public—nearly 7,000 images from the museum’s 145-year history, many never never seen before. And once again I’m finding myself enamored with old field photos of research trips to far-away-lands (true Indiana-Jones-fodder), with notes on the creation of iconic dioramas, and with images of a far-gone Manhattan. What a treasure!

Dino limb and foot Wyoming 1898



AMNH 1878

AMNH from the Dakota 1880

Have you visited the museum? We had such fun with Hudson before we left and made a short stop this past winter on our trip to New York. I gleaned some tips for visiting AMNH with kids from a true veteran (my friend, Leigh).

[Images from the Digital Special Collections (see links for full names and photographer credits): Camel Caravan in Mongolia, 1925; Boy in Brontosaurus Hall, 1959; Roy Chapman Andrews with Antelope, 1928;  Dinosaur Limb and foot in Wyoming, 1898; Installing Bobcat, 1958; Girl and Turtle, 1959; Exterior, 1878; Exterior of AMNH from the roof of the Dakota, 1880]

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