The work of the American Museum of Natural History lies at the heart of many of science's most promising directions. Founded in 1869, the Museum's mission is to discover, interpret, and disseminate—through scientific research and education—knowledge about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe.
Science and Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History
Throughout its history, the Museum has made many contributions in exploration, discovery, and technical advances in the natural sciences. Central to these efforts has been the accumulation of one of the world's pre-eminent museum collections—more than 32 million specimens and cultural artifacts—an irreplaceable record of life on Earth, which supports the Museum's cutting-edge research. Today, the Museum is in one of the most active periods of collecting in hits history, including building new types of collections such as frozen tissues and vast electronic databases supporting genomics and other research.
In the emerging field of genomic science, the Museum has a unique role—that of exploring genomics as a comparative, rather than single-species, discipline. For more than a decade, the Museum has fostered pacesetting research on the genetic makeup of a great diversity of species. Such research allows scientists to map the evolutionary relationships among organisms and to use that knowledge for applications that include understanding infectious diseases.
To effectively organize and build upon these remarkable gains in genomics research, the Museum established, in spring 2001, the Institute for Comparative Genomics (ICG). The Museum and the Institute's approach considers the 3.8 billion year history of life as a grand biological experiment, one whose observation requires the integration of molecular, anatomical, and paleontological data. That effort has now become the focus for more than 70 research staff using facilities that include modern molecular laboratories, substantial bioinformatics capacity, and a frozen-tissue collection facility. These, together with research partnerships with other prominent scientific institutions, position the Museum to enhance its important contributions to genomics research, particularly in microbial science.