American Museum of Natural History. Hall of Mammals.

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Exist Dates

1900 - 1969

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Permanent exhibition. Opened approximately 1900 and closed February 1969. Located on Floor 3, Section 3. The Hall of Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History exhibited mammal models, mounts, and skeletons and was arranged to present the orders and families of mammals. Previous to the opening of this mammal hall, the lower story of the 1877 building contained the Museum's mammal exhibits. By approximately 1900, the mammals were divided into separate halls, including the Hall of Primates, Hall of North American Mammals, Mammals of the Polar Regions, and Mammals of the World, later known as the Hall of Mammals, Synoptic Hall of Mammals, and the Biology of Mammals. The Hall of Mammals was closed for refurbishing in 1969. Although the Department of Mammalogy had plans to renovate the hall, it never reopened (1; 2, 1968/69 p. 4; 2, 1969/70, p. 4).

The Hall of Mammals was arranged from left to right to show the evolution and relationships of mammals. Most exhibits, which were featured on two levels with a balcony, provided a mount and a skeleton of each animal represented. By 1911, the rail along the gallery contained exhibits of insects and a mural frieze of marine scenes with dolphins and porpoises (3, 1911, p. 70; 3, 1919, p. 93). By 1927, the hall included the skeleton of Jumbo the elephant (3, 1927, p. 38). 1931-1933 General Guides indicate the hall name as "Mammals (Synoptic Series)".

The grand centerpiece of the hall was the 79-foot model of a sulphur-bottom (blue) whale suspended from the ceiling. The whale model, constructed by Roy Chapman Andrews in 1907, was made of timber, steel pipe, chicken wire, plaster of Paris, and papier mache (4, 2000, p. 27; 3, 1911, p. 70; 4, 2000; 6, 1973/74 p. 24). Other scale models also suspended from the ceiling were added by about 1919, and they included a toothed sperm whale, killer whale, porpoises (3, 1919, p. 93; 1), and cetacean skeletons which were exhibited near the railing. Additional models and skeletons were transferred to the Hall of Ocean Life in 1927 (6, 1927, p. 34).

The sulphur-bottom whale, which weighed 63 tons, remained in the Hall of Mammals until its closure. As its hall had shuttered, and it was too heavy to move to another Museum, the once-popular sulphur-bottom model was demolished in December 1973, though the blue whale model in the Hall of Ocean Life replaced it as the Museum's iconic whale (7, 1967; 6, 1973/74, p. 24). After Biology of Mammals closed, a gallery for temporary exhibitions, Gallery 3, opened in the same space in 1978 (6, 1977/78 p. 20).

Sources

    (1) American Museum of Natural History. Research Library Digital Special Collections, accessed June 21, 2017, http://images.library.amnh.org/digital
    (2) American Museum of Natural History Department of Mammalogy. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1968/69-1969/70.
    (3) General Guide to [the Exhibition Halls of] the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1911-1927.
    (4) Wallace, Joseph. Gathering of Wonders: Behind the Scenes at the American Museum of Natural History. New York: Griffin Books St Martin; New York: American Museum of Natural History, 2000.
    (5) Dunlap, David W. "Everything but Ahab: Ocean Hall Will Be Remade From the Whale Down CITY Museum Rethinks Ocean Hall From the Whale Down," New York Times, December 7, 2000.
    (6) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1927-1977/78.
    (7) American Museum of Natural History. American Museum of Natural History: A Pictorial Guide. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1967.
    Information for the hall appears in the following Museum publications:
    American Museum of Natural History Annual Reports for years: 1911 (page 43); 1917 (page 83); 1918 (page 66); 1919 (page 72); 1921 (page 64); 1923 (page 28, 70); 1924 (page 88, 142, 145); 1925 (page 119); 1926 (page 77); 1927 (page 33, 34); 1928 (page 6, 28, 35); 1929 (page 47, 73)
    American Museum of Natural History General Guides for years: 1904 (Table of Contents, 21); 1911 (page 55, 70); 1913 (Table of Contents, 64, 83); 1914 (Table of Contents, 71, 92); 1916 (page 75, 98); 1918 (Table of Contents, 67, 91); 1919 (Table of Contents, 69, 93); 1920 (Table of Contents, 69, 93); 1921 (Table of Contents, 69, 93); 1922 (Table of Contents, 69, 93); 1923 (Table of Contents, 69, 93); 1926 (page 38); 1927 (page 38); 1928 (Table of Contents, 84); 1929 (Table of Contents, 84)\; 1930 (Table of Contents, 84); 1931 (Table of Contents, 80); 1932 (Table of Contents, 80); 1933 (Table of Contents, 82); 1934 (Table of Contents, 86); 1935 (Table of Contents, 86); 1936 (Table of Contents, 86); 1939 (page 18, 113); 1943 (page 18, 120); 1945 (page 18, 69, 120); 1947 (page 18, 69); 1949 (page 18, 69, 120); 1953 (Floor plans, 149); 1956 (page 154); 1958 (page 156); 1962 (page 13, 44); 1964 (page 13, 44)
    American Museum of Natural History Pictorial Guide 1967.

Terms

place
New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Floor 3, Section 3. 1904 General Guide indicates Hall 306. 1953, 1956, and 1958 General Guides indicate Hall Number 3-U.

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

Akeley, Delia J. (Delia Julia), 1875?-1970
Collected elephant for skull was exhibited in hall (3, 1928, p. 84)
Andrews, Roy Chapman, 1884-1960
Created sulphur-bottom whale model suspended in hall (4, 2000, 27).
Lucas, Frederic A. (Frederic Augustus) 1852-1929
Curator responsible for development of hall (6, 1929, p. 47).

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 7


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