Map of the American Museum of Natural History

These are photographs of each page of a map that details the different exhibits in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, dated August 2015. My husband and I received this map when we entered the museum, and used it to navigate throughout the many levels. Each page details what a person would find on each floor and in each room during this particular time at the museum. This map can tell us a lot about public history and memory by showing us what museum curators and directors have chosen to showcase at a particular moment.

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The front cover of the map.

Technical Specifications

File Type: JPG

File Size: 1MB

Dimensions: 2448×3264

DPI: 72

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The lower level of the museum.

Technical Specifications

File Type: JPG

File Size: 879 KB

Dimensions: 2448×3264

DPI: 72

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The first floor of the museum.

Technical Specifications

File Type: JPG

File Size: 866 KB

Dimensions: 2448×3264

DPI: 72

 

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The third floor of the museum.

Technical Specifications

File Type: JPG

File Size: 815 KB

Dimensions: 2448×3264

DPI: 72

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The fourth floor of the museum.

Technical Specifications

File Type: JPG

File Size: 690 KB

Dimensions: 2448×3264

DPI: 72

Creative Specifications

I wanted to take the photos so that the viewer would be seeing the map just like a person would hold it in front of them to use it in the museum. By taking pictures of the entire floors and not just certain sections, the viewer is getting the same experience that I had when I used the map to navigate throughout the museum.

Historical Background

This is a collection of photographs detailing the various floors of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. I kept the map after a trip to the museum when I was in New York City with my husband in August of 2015 as a keepsake for our trip. The map shows us the various exhibits and areas of research that the museum focused on during this time period. This can give us a lot of insight into public memory and history, as we can see firsthand the kinds of exhibits that the museum curators and directors chose to focus on.

The museum was opened in 1869 by various politicians, businessmen, and scientists, including Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., the father of our 26th President, Teddy Roosevelt. The aim of the museum was to present scientific findings and representations of American culture and other cultures around the world. Today, the museum continues to conduct research and funding in order to better share the world of natural history with the public.

The museum has exhibits that include animals, fossils, gemstones, plants, and cultural artifacts from around the world. While the mission of the museum remains the same, the exhibits do change from time to time to introduce new research and interpretations. This is significant when studying public history and memory. The exhibits are carefully chosen for specific reasons and tell a specific story, and it is important for studying the culture and memory of our country to recognize the changes in focus in the museum. In this way, a single brochure that is handed out by the hundreds every single day can become an important piece of history.

Personally, the map represents a fun memory from visiting the museum on a trip to New York City with my husband. Because I study history, and he studies environmental science, it was essential for us to visit the museum. We both brought our newly developed historical and scientific minds into the museum, and thought carefully about what the museum was trying to convey to us. It was not until this project that I began to realize how significant this piece of historical ephemera could be to the field of public history and memory.

Pedagogical Implications

Something that I believe is often left out of discussions in history and social studies is the field of public history and memory. It is important for students to understand that there is a reason that our country chooses to teach certain moments in history, or why we choose to remember certain events in monuments or museums. Introducing this type of thinking to students will not only better their understanding of history, but it will encourage them to question the things that they hear and see from politicians, schools, organizations, and government institutions. This will lead to citizens with developed critical thinking skills and the ability to find the underlying meaning in every day events.

I can use these photos in an introduction and lesson into the field of public history and memory and what it means. I can outline the exhibits and have the class think and come up with reasons as to why the museum felt it was important to remember each one. After this, I would have the students get into groups and create their own museum with exhibits that they find important. The museum floors and rooms could be built on a computer with a software program. After construction of the museums, the students would present their museum in front of the class and make a case for why their exhibits are important and why they should be remembered. This exercise would be a fun and interactive way to encourage students to think on a higher level, and introduce them to the way public historians think.

 

Written by mgbrinkm

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