With its trademark dioramas and extensive collections, the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side, is one of the most prominent museums and scientific research centers in the world. It encompasses four city blocks and consists of 27 interconnected buildings with 45 permanent exhibit halls – with a $235 million expansion to come. Its physical vastness aside, it also has over 200 working scientists and sponsors over 100 annual field exhibitions. Thus, it was, and still is, a pioneer in discovering and circulating information on human culture, the natural sciences and the universe.
With all of this impressiveness, it’s not surprising that the museum and its history are packed with equally impressive secrets. Here are our top twelve.
The Central Park Arsenal in 1914. Image via Wikimedia Commons
In 1871, after much pleading, fundraising and petitioning, the first of the museum’s exhibits went on display at its original location in the Central Park Arsenal building. The museum was conceived by Albert S. Bickmore and backed by prestigious men like J.P. Morgan, Andrew Haswell Green and even Theodore Roosevelt. By 1876, the museum had over a million visitors each year, which was almost 10% of all Central Park visitors.
By 1877 it became clear that the flourishing museum needed more space, so it moved to Manhattan Square-a chunk of land across the street from Central Park between West 77th and 81st streets.
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