The American Museum of Natural History preserves and shares information about the natural world, human culture, and the universe.
This far-reaching mission produces collections and exhibits that serve as a field guide for the entire planet.
Image Number: 335068
“Children studying relief globe, 1914,” Kirschner, Julius.
At the museum, each research division holds their own collection of specimens and artifacts, as well as library and archival materials. Many of the items on display today were collected during expeditions sponsored by the museum during its early history from 1869 to the 1930s. Collections are supplemented by ongoing research conducted by museum scientists today.
Image Number: 326625
“Girl viewing triceratops skeleton, Cretaceous Hall, 1959,” Rota, Alex J. and Yourow, Morton.
Outside researchers and students can use the specimen and archive collections at the museum by making a formal appointment through the departments: Anthropology, Invertebrate Zoology, Paleontology, Physical Sciences, Astrophysics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vertebrate Zoology, Herpetology, Ichthyology, Mammalogy, and Ornithology.
Image Number: 325321
“Photographs, film reel, slides, and miniature busts, 1957,” Logan, Robert Elwood.
The archives at the Museum of Natural History are a great place for researchers at any level to start looking more closely at the museum’s collections. The amount of digitized content available on the museum’s website makes it possible for those interested in the stories behind the artifacts to dig a little deeper. Finding aids can be accessed online for many of the museum’s research divisions, providing descriptions of the items in their collections, including those held in the library and archives. Some specimen and artifact collections have been photographed digitally, and these can be viewed online along with manuscript catalogs depicting their original arrangement (see the Anthropology collection and manuscript catalog here). Items from the Anthropology archives, including field notes and photographs are also viewable online alongside related artifacts here.
Field notes in German from the Finsch Pacific Expeditions (1879-1885), Otto Finsch, accessed via http://www.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/archives
The museum’s institutional archives are held in the Research Library. This collection includes manuscripts, personal papers, field notebooks, photographs, and other archival documents relating to the museum, its scientists, and collections. Many items in the archives, including an extensive collection of historical expedition photographs, have been digitized and can be viewed online. The Research Library’s Digital Special Collections website provides instant access to thousands of digitized items, ranging from historical museum photographs and research documents, to unique art, memorabilia and rare books.
Image Number: LS179-30 “Inah-loo sewing, Greenland,” Unknown photographer
Image Number: 25129 “Jaggar, Mac Donald, Hovey, and Curtis with porters, expedition portrait, ascent of La Soufriere, St. Vincent, 1902,” Hovey, Edmund Otis, 1862-1924
Image Number: LS3-47 “Alonzo Pond and Roy Chapman Andrews discuss uses of 20,000 year-old stone implements, Third Asiatic Expedition,” Unknown photographer
These archival documents give us a firsthand look at the way research was conducted historically in the fields of anthropology, ethnology, archeology, and paleontology. Looking more closely at them can give us a better view of the people, landscapes, and stories connected to the exhibits we see at the museum.
Browsing the digitized collection feels like going to the museum without actually being there. The collections show the history of the museum through instant views of exhibits, artifacts, and specimens over time. Archival folders of notes, photographs, and illustrations preserve the little details that went into planning and constructing the museum’s early exhibits.
Image Number: ppc_533_b02_f053_005 “Lions, photographs mounted to card, for use in Lion Group, Akeley Hall of African Mammals”
Image Number: ppc_533_b02_f053_003 “Landscapes, some with dwellings and vehicle, Africa, photographs mounted to card, for use in Lion Group, Akeley Hall of African Mammals,” Unknown photographer
The digital archives of the Museum of Natural History provide new ways to dig deeper into the museum’s collections. They are accessible for critical examination, or the simple enjoyment of history, nature, science, art, and people.
Image Number: art_003_b2_11 “Plants and flowers, botanical illustration for use in Bighorn Sheep Group.”
Image Number: 2A2430 “John Burroughs and child, New York,” Unknown, AMNH Digital Special Collections, accessed February 8, 2015
Post by Margaret Durow