Trip Report #2: Culture and Nature, Science meet Art in AMNH

-Impression: Past and Present

I visited AMNH last Thursday, September 17th with my Cabinets of Wonder class for the field trip. It was my second time to visit AMNH.

As a tourist, I have visited AMNH two years ago. I remembered that I have heard a lot of information only about the display of dinosaur in AMNH. It was my first impression back to two years ago. The first visiting was more like a journey of curiosity, seeking novelty things.

For this time, I know that AMNH’s collection focuses on plants, humans, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, and human cultural artifacts. I like this historical and peaceful atmosphere when I immersed in this dim environment with those ancient animals, plants and rocks.


I entered AMNH from the 81th street entrance. There is a lane from central park extend to the entrance. It seems like the museum is part of the park, the city, nature.  I like this embedded entryway more than the other grand gates.


Most of the exhibitions hall are dim, and only those showcases are lightened up in a very subtle way. I have been to the hall of north America Mammals, Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life and the Biodiversity and Environmental Halls. There is no obvious guide to show people where to go, but I feel people intuitively follow the lights, (like a light tower) to complete the exploration.



If AMNH is one of my friends, I will describe him as a decent nerd(with oxford shoes), very academic, and old school(in a good way).


A couple of exhibition stood out!

  • Rose Center for Earth and Space

First, I like the way that walking through  an exhibition as a circle. Similar to the structure of Guggenheim, so we don’t need to decide the direction.


The curator decides to use steel as the main material to build the atmosphere of the universe for this exhibition. Also, since planets orbit in the galaxy, so most of the display are designed as circular table and wall. The whole design for this exhibition is very modern and minimal, including their choice of color, font, material, and architecture.

There are some interactive buttons, but more toward to the one-way functional purposes for demonstrating, magnifying, and so on.

Although there isn’t so many interaction inAMNH so far, but I think this the future direction for the experience inAMNH. Unlike other museums, AMNH especially needs to involve some interactive process to communicate with their audience, because it is for all-ages audiences.

Museum as AMNH is not only for the specific group but for all kinds of people. Compared with other art museum, curators in AMNH maybe more focus on how to present their research, and express the exist nature and history in a pleasant and playful way. The audience doesn’t need to have a specific knowledge for that. The whole experience in AMNH is going to be an educational tour and a discovery for “Journey to The Unknown”.

In some way, it is a perfect combination with curators, exhibition designers, artists, scientists, society researchers and historian. Their rolls effect on a different way for composing the whole show.

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Based on my observation,  People spend much more time on this exhibition than others, including myself. I think people are attracted by mysterious field, especially universe a lot, in general. Then, there is so many information to read. In addition, they arrange that information by categories and time scale, so it’s easy to follow and would like to complete.

  • Hall of Biodiversity

I love this curatorial concept a lot! I don’t know if it is ok to call it “Maximalism”. It reminds me of that concept and also reminds of The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. The design for displaying is putting everything together but based a curatorial organization.


Those specimens are put in such beautiful wooden drawers. I realized that it is probably the real point of “Cabinets of Wonder”. Look at this picture:


I can imagine that maybe the original idea of the museum came from how a collector organizes his room or his cabinets for his collection.

  • Hall of North American Mammals<pic>
  • As I mentioned before, people spend so much time on the Planet show, because they have a lot of things to read. But here, in Hall of Mammals, people stand in front of a scene of nature for a long time. It’s interesting and touching that I can feel some of them dive in deep thinking or nostalgia.
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  • The showcase is a well-done combination of painting, specimen and storytelling. In the other side, I would like more dynamic elements be add to this showcase.
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Other 🙁 Feedbacks:

  • “Exit Only”


I came from the first floor from the planet show and wanted to explore more. At the second floor, it shows “Exit Only”, but I didn’t see any entry for the show, maybe it starts from the top and down to here? In the end, I still didn’t get a chance to visit this show, and still don’t know where to enter.

  • Overwhelming Information

I remember there is some display in Earth and Planetary Science Hall. On one wall, there are so many things going on, different medias to show information, for examples, the caption on paper, video on the screen, the object on display, and complicated background installation to show the context. That’s too much to get the knowledge or the real point of they want to express.


I visited the website of AMNH, not only because it will be part of my trip report, but also after this trip, I really want to know what were the past exhibitions. AMNH is less visiting times in my personal experience then I visited other museums, but now I would like to come back frequently.  Their website is really old school design, in a very academic and historical way. But it’s clear to me to find the past exhibitions, permanent exhibitions, current exhibition, shows, etc. I need to mention that they organize their archive very well. When I read one of the past show “Einstein”, it seems I didn’t miss out the show. I can read the whole document and even newspaper article to re-experience the show.

Sometimes, it provides a very beautiful images and video archive in their website, as well as their Youtube channel. You just don’t want to miss any of them.


Reactions from other people:

I didn’t successfully hear any of groups’ whole conversation, even close enough to approach them(Sorry, I’m not a good spy@@). I do randomly hear some conversations, which also categorize the purpose of their visiting.

Traveling: A tourist group was following a commentator from AMNH to get the interaction of each display.

Education: There are  a couple of groups who are mother or father with their children. It was a lovely conversation between a father and his son about distinguishing that animal to correspond to the animal characters in animation.

Experience: There was a couple who were standing in front of the maximalism specimen wall and looking at the butterflies. I don’t even understand their language(because they speak Spanish), but I do know that it gives them a delightful experience, because of their smiling, and surprise expression.