American Museum of Natural History. Hall of Oil Geology.

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Exist Dates

1955 - 1965

Biographical or Historical Note

Permanent exhibition. Opened to the public on March 22, 1955 and closed August 16, 1965. Located on Floor 2, Section 1. The Hall of Oil Geology at the American Museum of Natural History was created with the support of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. The exhibits illustrated and explained the natural origins and history of oil, its geological and geographic distribution, and the principal methods and instruments used in the search for petroleum. The exhibits also showed examples of the ways in which oil is extracted from nature and its importance to modern society (1, 1954/55, p. 41). The Hall was dominated by a twenty-five-foot scale model of an oil derrick in the center (2, 1956, p. 82).

In 1947, the Museum announced a new educational exhibition program, introduced by Director Albert E. Parr, to modernize its halls, in order to present them in a streamlined, story-sequence the national, regional, and global development of man and nature. The Museum tasked itself with the study and teaching of the protection and proper use of natural resources (1, 1946/47, p. 3, 9-11). It was during this time that the Hall of Oil Geology was conceived and installed to tell the story of oil (1, 1957/58, p. 15).

In addition to its oil derrick centerpiece, which was accompanied by sound effects made from recordings of drilling operations, exhibits also included dioramas of oil fields, diagrams, graphs, and charts illustrating the formation of oil from plants and animals, geological methods of searching for oil deposits, and methods of extracting oil from the ground (2, 1956, p. 82).

During its short tenure, exhibits were periodically renovated, revised, and updated (1, 1958/59, p. 54; 1, 1961/62, p. 55). The last mention of the Hall of Oil Geology is in the 1962 or 1963 General Guide, and the space was subsequently used for the new Man in Africa Hall (2, 1962, p. 26-27).


    (1) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1946/47-1961/62.
    (2) American Museum of Natural History. General Guide [to the Exhibits] of the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1956-1962.
    Information for the hall appears in the following Museum publications:
    American Museum of Natural History Annual Reports for years 1954 (page 41); 1957 (page 15); 1958 (page 54); 1961 (page 55)
    American Museum of Natural History General Guides for years 1953 (Table of Contents, page 12); 1956 (page 26, 81, 82); 1958 (page 26, 81, 82); 1962 or 1963 (page 10, 12, 43)


New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Floor 2, Section 1. Additional location information: Hall number 2-F is also indicated.

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

Department of Exhibition
"[T]he new hall also represents the first full-scale example of the modern trend in exhibition design developed by the architects and artists of the Museum's own Department of Exhibition and Construction." (1, 1954/55, p. 41).
Newell, Norman Dennis 1909-2005
Curator for hall (1, 1954/55, p. 41).
Standard Oil Company of New JerseyExternal link
Provided funding for hall and lent expertise to Museum staff (1, 1954/55, p. 41).

Related Resources

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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