Travels & Adventures

American Natural History Museum

One of my favourite days spent in New York, was when we visited the Natural History Museum. It had pretty much been number one on my list of museums to see, and I was not disappointed. I felt as if I had been transported back in time to the 50’s as we explored all the fantastic halls filled with dioramas. The yellow gold lettering introduces the creatures inhabiting each scene, which has been put together with an incredible eye for detail, the real elements blending seamlessly with the fantastic painted backdrops.

I really just wanted to move into each cube of light, and immediately started imagining how I would be able to create my own dioramas in my home in Barcelona! Each area was a virtual reality, the curved glass eliminating reflections, so that you felt drawn inside each environment. We were blown away by the fact that each piece was a part of history, as well as showcasing an educational part of our natural history, with dioramas dating back to the 1930s. The paintings spanned up and encompass the entire scene with incredible painterly details.

The Akeley Hall which hosts the African mammals is considered by some to be one of the world’s greatest museum displays. Carl Akeley (1864–1926), an explorer, conservationist, taxidermist, sculptor and photographer created the hall and led teams of scientists and artists on three expeditions to Africa during the first two decades of the 20th century. He brought many specimens from the expeditions back to the Museum, and used them to create the hall, with its twenty-eight dioramas.(source)

I think the thing that I was most taken with were the truly beautiful back drop paintings, many of which had been created by James Perry Wilson. the fantastic use of colour and brush strokes evoke magnificently real landscapes, each glowing with light and atmosphere. If you look closely you can just see where the foreground of real grasses or sands and brush merge with the painted background, perfectly matched up so that it is almost impossible to see. I loved the purple and orange glints of sunlight reflecting of mountains or the fantastic jungle scenes with creepered trees falling away into the distance.

Other highlights included the avian rooms, and the ocean hall with the magnificent blue whale dominating the room, suspended from the ceiling! An entire day is not nearly enough to see everything, and it can be quite overwhelming! We took a break and went to the Shake Shack outside for a super yummy peanut butter milkshake and burgers before hitting up the gem halls and dinosaurs.

You can read more about the artists involved in creating the dioramas here and here, as well as buy a book dedicated to the history of the museum and its creators. I know it’s on my list :)

12 thoughts on “American Natural History Museum

  1. Kat, thanks so much for taking the time to visit Shake Shack in NYC. It’s awesome we could be a part of your day at the American Natural History Museum.

    Hope you had a great trip, and our team can’t wait to see you again when you’re back in the US!

    -Brandy, Shake Shack

  2. terrific response to an amazing place – I’d love to see it myself . . thanks for sharing the photographs which capture it all so well . . I recall (way back in Standard 6 – I think) being locked into the Transvaal Museum (Pretoria) because I was utterly transfixed by the bird displays while the rest of the school group hurried along – from exhibit to exhibit – after the teacher. I wish I could say that “I was forced to spend the night in the dark, stone-walled edifice” but I was actually ‘rescued’ about ten minutes later when somebody noticed that I wasn’t on the school bus!

    • haha, what a wonderful story! you will need about a week in this museum, i really just focused on the halls filled with animals and birds, and we literally ran through the dinosaur displays while they were announcing closing, we never spent any time in the other halls which looked fascinating! I would love to go back too!

  3. another thing I remember – placing about 200 pickled harvester termites – with tweezers – into a diorama of a termite mound, at Delta Park Education Centre (Johannebsurg) – many, many moons ago . . . .

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