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Senses-Themed Origami Holiday Tree Goes on View

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Children gather around the base of an artificial evergreen tree that is covered with origami decorations.
The 2017 Origami Holiday Tree.
© AMNH/R. Mickens

Planning for the Origami Holiday Tree, which went on view November 20, has been underway for months. It’s a marathon, not a sprint—and it has to be, to give the volunteers from OrigamiUSA time to plan and create hand-folded models that decorate it every year.

Just like the Museum’s halls, the Origami Tree is home to reliable favorites and special attractions alike. Origami models of Museum stalwarts like T. rex are perennial favorites that grace the tree every year, and some of the greatest hits date to the very beginning of the Museum’s tree-trimming tradition. One origami pterosaur, for instance, goes all the way back to the 1970s.


Tall, artificial evergreen tree, covered in origami decorations, stands on pedestal in a bay window.
The Museum’s Origami Holiday Tree features more than 1,000 hand-folded models.
© AMNH/R. Mickens

But each year, these are joined by new models that reflect what’s happening at the Museum today. Last year, for instance, The Titanosaur got an origami model of its own—a sure sign that the new Museum icon had arrived.

While models of Museum specimens like dinosaur fossils and animals from the dioramas are popular ones to spot, that’s not to say that the Department of Astrophysics is unrepresented—after all, what’s a holiday tree without the star? The Museum’s tree goes above and beyond, with 30 mobiles, each made up of multiple stars.

What will you see on the tree this year? This year’s theme is Unfolding the Senses, and the tree will feature models inspired by the new exhibition Our Senses: An Immersive Experience including optical illusions, balancing figures, hands, eyes, bats, a hammerhead shark, and beluga whales. Come by and see them all for yourself! The Origami Holiday Tree is on view through January 7, 2018. 


If you need your folding fix before that, we’ve got you covered. Follow the instructions in the video above, or read along below, to fold an origami model of your own. We picked—what else?—the blue whale.


Origami 101 Terms:

Valley Fold: A fold that creates a valley in the paper—think a hot dog bun.

Mountain Fold: A fold that leaves the paper standing up like a mountain.


Instructions for folding a whale:

1. Start with a square. Pre-crease along diagonals.

2. Fold the sides in half, to the center, then unfold.

3. Flip the square and fold the sides in half.

4. Fold length-wise, so that bottom point meets the top point.

5. Pull the corners to the right, allowing edges to lie against the center.

6. Valley fold the top flap over.

7. Valley fold the flap over.

8. Valley fold the model in half.

9. Reverse fold the right point upwards.

10. Your whale should be done!


Visit this year’s Origami Holiday Tree in its new location in the Astor Turret, located next to the Hall of Primitive Mammals on the fourth floor.

Need some help folding? OrigamiUSA volunteers will be on hand in the gallery to assist when you visit.