by Stacy J. Schiff on
With the Museum’s changes, moves, and new spaces, I thought it was appropriate to share some images of the Museum’s own evolution throughout its history in New York City. While we are proud of our ability to change and meet the needs of science education, our visitors, and our staff and researchers, we are aware of our iconic place in Manhattan, of our responsibility to stay present on the global stage of memory in New York as a citadel of natural history and New York City history.
AMNH Image 333824, below, shows Section I of the Museum shortly after its 1877 completion. The Museum has grown around this building on all sides and in the late 1870s, a wooden extension corridor and entry pavilion were constructed on the south end (to the left) to bring visitors into the building from 77th Street. The Museum’s current 77th Street entrance stands here now.
In 1890, the Museum was again under construction, as seen in the following photograph (AMNH Image 473). The growing city is visible in the background. The next image below shows scaffolding during the construction of the façade of the Museum’s west wing (AMNH Image 31638) and the south wing (AMNH Image 31542), both in 1906.
Looking closely at the bottom left of the following image from August of 1907, (AMNH Image 45669) we see a woman with two children who are stopped at the low fence to look at the grounds and building at the entrance
and exterior to the 77th Street façade of the Museum. The image to the right is an enhanced close-up of that detail. The circular driveway and staircase are recognizable today. And the scene of children and families walking past and to the Museum is a remarkably familiar one repeated daily throughout the last century and a half. We know that section of sidewalk today, lined with benches and the sight of New Yorkers, Museum staff, and visitors enjoying a quiet respite for lunch.
The next two images below (AMNH Images 337384 and 298690) show the dome of the Hayden Planetarium being constructed in 1934. A favorite of visitors to the Museum, the Museum’s original Hayden Planetarium opened in the fall of 1935. The image below (AMNH Image 321999) shows the finished dome from the summer of 1951. Construction of the Rose Center for Earth and Space and The David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth (AMNH Image 656533) is seen further below. Opening in February of 2000, the Rose Center’s Hayden Planetarium replaced the original to present exhibits and planetarium displays in a contemporary and technology-rich space.
If there is one thing the natural world can teach us, it’s that adaptability is essential to our existence, that embracing change is the best way for us to succeed, learn, and grow. 2023 will bring many exciting new opportunities for visitors to engage with the Museum. We invite you to visit Digital Collections at digitalcollections.amnh.org to enjoy tens of thousands of images like these showcasing the Museum community at work, as well as a history of expeditions, research, and science education in New York and around the globe.
This entry was written by Stacy Schiff, Visual Resources Librarian.