Building 3A Project

Bldg 3A
Building 3A shortly after completion
Old photo of early storage of fossil mammal bone collection
Fossil mammal storage before 3A
refurbished collection hall in Vertebrate Paleontology Department for fossil mammal collection
Collection floor after refurbishment
new cabinets
New storage cabinets
new bison shelves
Storage racks for fossil bison
crate shelves
Heavy storage racks for crates
In a Museum storage room large flat metal racks with wide stacked shelves holding fossil camel bones.
Storage racks for fossil camels

Building 3A, also known as the Childs Frick Building, was completed in 1973. It has 11 floors, including the basement. It was constructed in an interior courtyard and despite the fact that it is one of the tallest buildings at the Museum, it is invisible from the surrounding streets. The top three floors are occupied by offices of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology and by the fossil preparation laboratory. The remaining floors, totaling nearly 40,000 square feet of storage, are used to house the Division's fossil mammal collection.

Building 3A was constructed to address the problem of accommodating the vast fossil mammal collections of Childs Frick, which were donated to the Museum in 1968. The donation doubled the size of the AMNH fossil mammal collection, causing considerable storage problems. Before the construction of Building 3A, approximately half of the collection was physically inaccessible; around 50% of the collection had no storage furniture, or was stored on fixed wooden shelves; 2,095 drawers of specimens were not in cabinets, but stacked from floor to ceiling in some areas.

At the time of construction, the new building represented the very latest thinking in collection storage. More than thirty years later, however, it is showing its age. In 2003, the Museum started work on an ambitious program to refurbish the collection floors. This work, which will take until 2010 to complete, requires the movement of the entire fossil mammal collection, totaling some 400,000 specimens.

In the first phase of the project, in 2003, the contents of the 5th floor of 3A, consisting of around 50,000 specimens of artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates) were moved to the basement of an adjoining building. The empty 5th floor was then refurbished, and used to accommodate the contents of the 7th floor. The project proceeds in this stepwise manner - as each floor is completed, the contents of the next floor to be refurbished is moved in. When the last floor has been refurbished, it will be used to house the 50,000 specimens that were moved out of 3A in phase one.

During the moves, the Division is able to address some of the long-standing curatorial problems of the fossil mammal collection. Substandard specimen cabinets are replaced; new shelving is installed to house oversized specimens; specimens on open shelves are cleaned; damaged drawers are replaced; and the collection is returned to a taxonomically-consistent arrangement that makes it easier to for staff and visitors to find specimens.

As of November 2008, the Museum had renovated seven out of eight collection floors; replaced 396 substandard storage cabinets with modern, lockable, gasket sealed cabinets; installed 77 new heavy duty storage racks; and cleaned over 9,500 specimens. For the last two years, efforts have been focused on the two floors of the building that house the Museum's world-renowned collection of fossil perissodactyls. This work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Division of Biological Infrastructure.