History 1901-1960 main content.

History 1901-1960


1906 • Boas leaves his position at the Museum and begins teaching at Columbia University. One of his students is Margaret Mead, the scientist, explorer, writer, and teacher who will work in the Department of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History from 1926 until her death in 1978. A pioneer, she brings the serious work of anthropology into the public consciousness.

1908 • Museum President Morris K. Jesup dies. Henry Fairfield Osborn becomes President. Osborn is the first Museum president trained as a scientist.

1913 • Carl Akeley, a pioneer in the creation of lifelike mammal dioramas, writes to Osborn offering to devote five years to the creation of an African Mammals Hall at the Museum. Osborn agrees.

Roy Chapman Andrews

1920s • Roy Chapman Andrews leads the historic Central Asiatic Expeditions through the Gobi of Mongolia, discovering some of the richest dinosaur fossil sites in the world. Andrews and his team work there until the border between China and Outer Mongolia closes in 1930.

1926 • The Museum receives an extensive gift of mammals from the Indian subcontinent, the result of an expedition led by Arthur S. Vernay and Colonel J. C. Faunthorpe. Work soon begins on designing a fitting environment for these specimens, which will be mounted according to Akeley’s technique and displayed in dioramas.

1930 • The first major hall of mammal habitat dioramas, the South Asiatic Hall, opens, displaying Vernay and Faunthorpe’s gift of specimens.

1933 • F. Trubee Davison becomes President of the Museum. A. Perry Osborn becomes Acting President from 1941–1946, after which Davison resumes his position.

 • The Hall of Ocean Life opens on the first floor. The hall is renovated in 1969 to include a 94-foot-long model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling.

1935 • Legendary dinosaur explorer Roy Chapman Andrews becomes Director of the Museum.

 • The Hayden Planetarium opens.

Akeley Hall of African Mammals.

1936 • Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall and Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda open.

 • Built in stages between 1936 and 1963, the Hall of North American Mammals showcases what many consider to be the finest habitat dioramas in the world.

1942 • The Hall of North American Mammals opens on the first floor with 10 dioramas. 

 • The Akeley Hall of African Mammals opens under the direction of James L. Clark, the Museum’s Vice Director. Artists and scientists, led by Carl Akeley, had gone to Africa to sketch, photograph, collect, measure, and make molds of leaves, bark, moss, and other aspects of the terrain to make the dioramas as accurate as possible.

1951 • Alexander M. White becomes President of the Museum.

1957 • Hall of North American Forests opens on the first floor. 

1958 • The Hall of North American Mammals reopens.

1960 • The Great Canoe exhibit is installed near the 77th Street entrance.