American Museum of Natural History. Hall of Human Biology.

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Exist Dates

1961 - 2006

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Permanent exhibition. Opened March 20, 1961 and closed 2005-2006. Located on Floor 1, Section 4. The Hall of Human Biology at the American Museum of Natural History covered topics in physical anthropology. Completed as part of the ten-year expansion program to create more modern halls, the Hall of the Biology of Man, as it was then called, took the place of the Hall of the Natural History of Man in concept (1, 1959/60, p. 11). The hall was originally conceived by curator Harry L. Shapiro (1, 1960/61, p. 25). In an effort led by curator Ian Tattersall, the hall was redesigned between 1982 and 1992 and reopened as the Hall of Human Biology and Evolution (1, 1982/83 p. 2; 1, 1989/90, p. 3).

Planning for the hall began around 1952 with the purpose of explaining "the anatomy, functions, and development of the human body, some of its basic responses to external conditions and events, and some of the biological aspects of the association of human beings in populations and communities” (1, 1952/53, p. 49).

The original hall was divided into three sections. The first section covered the story of the human species, its relationship to other vertebrates, and its evolution. The second section covered the functioning of human physiological systems down to the microscopic level. The third section showed biological phenomena associated with groups by population, genetics, demographics, and relationship to the environment (2, 1962, p.15). Other exhibits included replica heads of early hominids and the Transparent Woman, a clear model showing internal organs (3, 1972, p. 123-126).

Following the remodeling in the early 1990s, the hall began with a discussion of DNA and continued with displays of vertebrate and mammalian body systems, and primate and human evolution through the earliest archaeological evidence of human artistic creativity. The Hall of Human Biology featured four life-size dioramas of early hominids: Australopithecus afarenis, Homo ergaster, Neanderthal, and Cro-Magnon. Other exhibits included casts of skeletons of Lucy, Turkana Boy, and Peking Man, replicas of Ice Age art from the Dordogne region of France, and a diorama of a skeleton family in a living room watching a videotape of how the skeleton and muscles function (4, 1993, p. 31; 4, 2001, p. 46). The hall was replaced by the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, which opened in 2007.

Sources

    (1) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1959/60-1989/90.
    (2) American Museum of Natural History. General Guide to [the Exhibition Halls of] the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1962.
    (3) American Museum of Natural History. American Museum of Natural History: An Introduction. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1972.
    (4) American Museum of Natural History. Official Guide: Images from around American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1993-2001.
    Information for the hall appears in the following Museum publications:
    American Museum of Natural History Annual Reports for years 1952 (page 35, 49); 1953 (page 53); 1954 (page 50); 1955 (page 42); 1956 (page 11); 1957 (page 4); 1958 (page 9); 1959 (page 11); 1960 (page 25); 1961 (page 53); 1962 (page 3); 1963 (page 71); 1967 (page 24, 72); 1968 (page 18); 1969 (page 18); 1970 (page 20); 1971 (page 16); 1972 (page 7, 30); 1973 (page 15); 1974 (page 7, 14); 1976 (page 8); 1980 (page 7); 1982 (page 2, 8); 1983 (page 58); 1984 (page 52); 1985 (page 8, 53); 1986 (page 10); 1987 (page 10); 1988 (page 5); 1989 (page 3); 1990 (page 1); 1991 (page 3); 1992 (page 14); 1993 (page 7); 1994 (page 38)
    American Museum of Natural History General Guides for years 1962 (page 12, 15); 1964 (page 12, 15)
    American Museum of Natural History: A Pictorial Guide 1967.
    American Museum of Natural History: An Introduction 1972 (page 7, 123)
    American Museum of Natural History Official Guides for years 1984 (page 36); 1993 (page 31, 50); 2001 (Table of Contents, page 46, 60)
    Museum Floor Plan Winter 2005-2006

Terms

place
New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Floor 1, Section 4. Hall number 1-B

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins
The Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins replaced the Hall of Human Biology.
Hall of the Natural History of Man
The Hall of Human Biology replaced the Hall of the Natural History of Man.
Leone, Cathy
Prepared Neaderthal skull exhibited in hall (4, 1993, p. 31).
Riesenfeld, Alphonse
Department of Anthropology, assisted Curator Harry Shapiro in preparation for hall (1, 1952/53 p. 35).
Rockefeller, John D., III (John Davison), 1906-1978External link
Provided funding for hall (1, 1952/53, p. 49).
Scientists and Journalists: One Story, Two Voices: A Century of Science Reporting in The New York Times (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1996 June 26-1996 September 29
Shapiro, Harry L. (Harry Lionel) 1902-1990
Curator for hall (1, 1952/53 p. 35).
Tattersall, Ian
Curator for hall (1, 1971/72, p. 16)
Ward, Priscilla
Curatorial assistant for hall (1, 1968/69, p. 18).

Related Resources

subjectOf
Historic Halls of the American Museum of Natural History
Curated digital images of permanent halls in the American Museum of Natural History Library, Digital Special Collections.

Written by: Clare O'Dowd
Last modified: 2018 December 18


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