American Museum of Natural History. Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians.

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Exist Dates

1927 - present

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Permanent exhibition. Opened June 1927. Located on Floor 3, Section 9. The Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians at the American Museum of Natural History began as smaller herpetology exhibits before the opening of the large hall on the third floor in June 1927 (1, 1919, p. 37). The curator for this version of the hall was G. Kingsley Noble (2, 1927, p. 32). Collections for the hall were developed through The Santo Domingo Expedition (Angelo Heilprin Expedition to the Dominican Republic) (1922), the Marsh-Darien Expedition (1924), and the Burden East Indian Expedition (1926) (2, 1922, p. 82-84; 2, 1924, p. 73-74). A redesign, led by curators Richard G. Zweifel, Charles J. Coles, and Charles W. Myers and exhibit designer Eugene B. Bergmann. Museum artists Raymond deLucia and David Schwendeman also contributed (2, 1976/77, p. 18-19; 2, 1977/78, p. 20; 2, 1972/73, p. 31) began in 1969, and the updated hall opened in November 1977 (2, 1977/78, p. 20).

While awaiting the construction of a new wing, the reptile and amphibian collections were displayed in smaller sections, first in the same hall as Mammals of the Polar Regions (Floor 2, Section 5) circa 1911 and then in the south pavilion of the second floor (Floor 2, Section 2) with other exhibits awaiting permanent homes (1, 1911, p. 35; 1, 1913, p. 43). Exhibits at this time, circa 1911-1923, included specimens cast in wax from life, including a star tortoise, Pickering's hyla, and common newt, and habitat groups in the center of the hall, which included tuberculated iguana, water moccasin, diamond-backed rattlesnake, Texas rattlesnake, copperhead from New York, Gila monster, pine snake, box tortoise, common painted turtle, cobra from India, bullfrog from North America, lily pond, salamander from Pennsylvania, toad from New England, lower California lizards, and the Florida Group, which included alligators, snakes, and turtles (1, 1919, p. 37-41).

The new hall opened in June 1927. New exhibits, including new habitat groups, were planned for the third floor space in a new wing. New habitat groups included the Komodo Dragon Group, Rhinoceros Iguana Group from Haiti, Jamaica Iguana Group, Dominican Spike-tailed Iguana Group, Marine Iguanas Group from the Galapagos, Sphenodon Group, Giant Tree Frog Group from Haiti, and Great Salamander Group (2, 1922, p. 82-84; 1, 1928, p. 89). The Leatherback Turtle Group was added by 1953 (1, 1953, p. 102). "Synthetic" groups shown together for comparison but not necessarily found together in nature included the Florida and New England Groups (1, 1928, p. 89). The habitats in the new hall were placed in a "cloister" section of the hall, which included a series of murals by museum artists including Francis Lee Jaques (2, 1926, p. 54).

The hall included a systematic series with characteristic examples of frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, and turtles. Other exhibits included amphibians and reptiles found with fifty miles of New York City, specimens of turtles, alligators, and crocodiles, exhibits on anatomy of reptiles, the influence of their environments, feeding habits, life cycles (1, 1928, p. 89), snake poison and treatment, reptile skeletons, snake yarns, self-protection, economic value of reptiles and amphibians (1, 1931, p. 87). Sunken cases presented Natural Selection: The Directing Principal of Evolution; Isolation: A Major Factor in the Origin of the Species; Concealing, Coloration, and Form; Parallel Evolution (1, 1931, p. 89); Adaptation; Adaptive Radiation; Parental Care, and Attracting or Frightening Devices (1, 1953, p. 102); Snakes of Fable and Fact (1, 1953, p. 101).

The hall was under construction from 1969-1977, reopening in November 1977. The new design, which is current as of 2017, features floating cases in two rows, one for reptiles and the other for amphibians, with exhibits covering relationships, habitats, life histories, faculties, and adaptation of various cold-blooded vertebrates. Full-sized habitat groups include Komodo dragons feeding on wild boar, a reticulated python readying to pounce, and leatherback sea turtles laying eggs. At the entrance to the hall visitors are greeted by specimens of a Galapagos turtle, an alligator, and a crocodile (3, 1984, p. 27).

Sources

    (1) 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, 1911-1953.
    (2) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1922-1977/78.
    (3) American Museum of Natural History. The Official Guide to the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1984.
    Information for the hall appears in the following Museum publications:
    American Museum of Natural History Annual Reports for years 1916 (page 21); 1918 (page 53); 1919 (page 25); 1922 (page 82); 1923 (page 27, 71, 107); 1924 (page 73); 1925 (page 18, 52, 53); 1926 (page 34, 64); 1927 (page 32); 1928 (page 3, 28); 1931 (page 46); 1935 (page 11); 1936 (page 12, 13); 1937 (page 14, 15); 1938 (page 9); 1940 (page 6, 15); 1965 (page 76); 1966 (page 80); 1967 (page 70); 1969 (page 23, 39); 1970 (page 10, 22, 39, 43); 1971 (page 3, 22, 34); 1972 (page 7, 12); 1973 (page 17); 1974 (page 7, 17, 26); 1975 (page 4, 18, 26); 1976 (page 4, 7, 18-19, 26); 1977 (page 2, 20, 23); 1978 (page 7); 1979 (page 3, 49); 1988 (page 19); 1990 (page 6)
    American Museum of Natural History General Guides for years 1911 (page 51); 1913 (page 43); 1914 (page 44-48); 1916 (page 47-49); 1918 (page 35-39) 1919 (page 37-41); 1920 (page 37-41); 1921 (page 37-41); 1922 (page 37-41); 1923 (page 37-41); 1927 (page 38); 1928 (Table of Contents, 89); 1929 (page 89); 1930 (page 89); 1931 (Table of Contents, page 87); 1932 (Table of Contents, page 87); 1932 (page 87); 1933 (Table of Contents, page 89); 1934 (Table of Contents, page 90); 1935 (Table of Contents, page 90); 1936 (Table of Contents, page 90); 1939 (page 18, 76, 78); 1943 (Table of Contents, page 18, 77, 79); 1945 (page 18, 69, 77); 1947 (page 18, 69, 77); 1949 (page 18, 69, 77); 1953 (Floor plans, page 25, 99); 1956 (page 26, 110); 1958 (page 26, 110); 1962 (page 13, 34-35); 1964 (page 13, 34-35)
    American Museum of Natural History Pictorial Guide 1967
    American Museum of Natural History Official Guide for years 1984 (page 26); 1993 (page 18, 50); 2001 (Table of Contents, page 53, 62)

Terms

place
New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Floor 3, Section 9. [Additional location information: Floor 2, Section 5. From 1911, hall is located in the Southeast Pavillion on the second floor. Floor 2, Section 2. From 1913, hall is located in the South Pavillion as a temporary arrangement, awaiting new wing. Floor 3, Section 9. From 1916, when the hall was being planned for construction.]

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

Beebe, William 1877-1962
Secured iguana specimens for hall (2, 1923, p. 107-109).
Bergmann, Eugene
Exhibition Department, designed hall for renation in 1970s (1, 1977/78, p. 20).
Blaschke, Frederic A. 1881-1938
Preparator for Rhinoceros Iguana Group (2, 1923, p. 32).
Breder, Charles M. (Charles Marcus), 1897-1983
Memeber of Marsh-Darien Expedition, which collected material for hall (2, 1924, p. 73-74).
Burden East Indian Expedition
Expedition collected material for hall (2, 1928, p. 28).
Coles, Charles J
Curator for hall (2, 1976/77, p. 18-19).
DeLucia, Raymond H.
Museum artist, preparator for exhibits in hall during 1970s renovation (2, 1972/73 p. 31).
Escherich, Walter
Museum artist, preparator for mounted snake model (2, 1922, p. 82-84).
Jaeckle, Miriam E.
Preparator for exhibits in hall (2, 1926, p. 64).
Jaques, Francis Lee 1887-1969
Museum artist, painted mural in hall (2, 1926, p. 54).
Live Snakes and Peepers (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1941 May 21-unknown
Marsh, Richard Oglesby
Led Marsh-Darein Expedition, which collected material for hall (2, 1924, p. 73-74).
Marsh-Darien Expedition
Expedition collected material for hall (2, 1924, p. 73-74).
Mimicry Among Snakes (Exhibition)
associated dates: 1940 October 5-unknown
Myers, Charles W
Curator for hall during 1970s renovation (2, 1976/77, p. 18-19).
Noble, G. Kingsley (Gladwyn Kingsley) 1894-1940
Curator for hall (2, 1927, p. 32).
Santo Domingo Expedition (Angelo Heilprin Expedition to the Dominican Republic)
Expedition collected material for hall (2, 1922, p. 82-84).
Schwendeman, David
Museum artist, preparator for exhibits in hall (2, 1972/73 p. 31).
Williams, Harrison
Secured specimens for hall (2, 1923, p. 107-109).

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: 2019 January 25


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