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American Museum of Natural History Hall of North American Forests notebook

Identifier: DR 094

Scope and Content

This collection contains documents used in the planning, preparation and construction of exhibits for the Hall of North American Forests. The material relates largely to the financial aspects of exhibit construction. The contents of the box are organized into 30 folders, which were originally separate tabs in a ring-binder. The first folder relates to the hall in general, and includes an index of exhibits, a list of funds from the Department of Conservation and General Ecology, progress reports, meeting minutes concerning exhibit design decisions, estimates of exhibit costs and other financial documents. The material organized in the following 29 folders relates to individual exhibits within the hall. See the Container List for the names of the exhibits these folders relate to, in order of arrangement. The material in each folder is loosely organized, and similar types of documents can be found for each exhibit. Most folders include a lined page(s) listing general details for the display (although these are often incomplete). For example, for forest habitat groups the donor, site, time, background, foreground and curator are listed. Some of these pages also include handwritten notes recording discussions and decisions made at staff meetings, dating from 1954-56. Other meeting minutes typed on separate pages, dating primarily from 1956, are filed in many of the folders. The minutes generally outline decisions made regarding the design, content and construction of the individual exhibit. Some of these meetings appear to have involved only staff from the Departments of Exhibition and Planning, while other inter-departmental meetings also include staff from the Department of Conservation and General Ecology/the Department of Vegetation Studies (usually Jack McCormick, occasionally Richard Pough), diorama background artists, and museum Director Albert E. Parr. A large proportion of pages filed in each folder concern the finances for the exhibit in question. These documents contain figures for monetary receipts (contributions from donors and transfers from museum funds), disbursements (e.g. expenses related to fieldwork, freight, art, materials, labor and installation), estimates of costs for remaining work, and the current balance or overdraft. The majority of these documents date from April and May, 1956, while a few exhibits’ financial documents date from 1955. Additional statements list more detailed estimates of costs for the various components of an exhibit, such as model sketches, background paintings, specimens, lighting, labels, installation, field expenses, supplies, etc. The majority of these cost estimates date from 1955. For some exhibits, additional documents provide descriptions of planned designs and display components, including both physical and educational content. For habitat groups, these often include lists of all the plant and animal specimens included in the display and how they are to be positioned. Others contain more detailed academic information about the information an exhibit will present. It should be noted that some folders contain little to no content for their respective exhibits, including the New Hampshire Forest Group, Sugar Maple Forest Group, Introduction, and Elm and Big Tree Windows.


  • 1954-1956
  • Majority of material found within 1955-1956



Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Historical Note

Constructed during the 1950s, the Hall of North American Forests is intended to present an overview of the ecology and variety of forests native to the United States and Canada. The hall was opened to the public on May 14, 1958, showcasing the diversity of North American forests in 12 habitat groups, with additional explanatory exhibits outlining topics such as forest soils, insects, diseases, and man’s use of the forest. With the exception of a few closed exhibits, the hall currently exists in virtually the same condition in which it was opened. The museum department in charge of the curatorial development of the Hall of North American Forests went by three different names during the hall’s construction. The Department of Forestry and General Botany (established 1946) began work on the Hall of North American Forests in 1951 under Chairman and Curator Henry K. Svenson. This department had previously been known as the Department of Woods and Forestry (1910-1937) and the Department of Forestry and Conservation (1938-1945). In 1953, when the department’s name was changed to the Department of Conservation and General Ecology, Chairman Richard H. Pough and his assistant Jack McCormick took over direction of the hall’s construction. In 1956, nearing the hall’s completion, the department name was again changed to the Department of Vegetation Studies, with Jack McCormick in charge. The departments responsible for the physical construction of exhibits in the Hall of North American Forests also underwent multiple rearrangements during the hall’s development. Previously known simply as the Department of Arts, Preparation and Installation, by the time work began on the Hall of North American Forests, individual departments of Exhibition, Art, Building Construction and Maintenance, and Building Services, had been organized under an Office of Program Administration. By 1956, this had again changed to departments of Planning, Exhibition, Graphic Art and Illustration, and Building Construction and Maintenance, under an Office of Exhibition and Construction. Responsible for the preparation and installation of museum exhibits, staff from the Departments of Planning and Exhibition played an important role in the creation of the Hall of North American Forests. This included involvement in design decisions, managing the finances and budget for each exhibit, and overseeing construction of the hall’s habitat groups and other exhibits. Staff who appear (from this collection) to have been involved with the Hall of North American Forests include Gordon R. Reekie, Katharine Beneker, George M. Nelson, Joseph M. Guerry, Lothar P. Witteborg, Charles B. Tornell and Henry Gardiner.


1 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Material is in good condition. The edges of some pages have been partially torn from the ring binder. Many papers are thin and delicate.

Related Material

Call number: DR 080 Title: American Museum of Natural History Department of Forestry and General Botany Papers, 1949-1960 (bulk 1953-1958) This collection concerns the Landscape Hall and the Hall of North American Forests, as well as the planning of the Botany Hall. Most material concerns the planning and construction of exhibits, as well as costs, notes, edits and sketches for particular displays.

Call number: DR 104 Title: Department of Preparation and Installation Diorama and Hall construction, 1919-1962. Box 2 of 6 in this collection relates to the planning, development and construction of dioramas in the forestry halls, including the Hall of North American Forests.

Call number: QK938.F6 M2 1959 Title: The Living Forest Book by Jack McCormick of the Department of Vegetation Studies, based on the Hall of North American Forests. Published by Harper in 1959.

Call number: RF-FF-6 Title: [Dioramas. 4th series] [picture] / Hiroshi Sugimoto]. Photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto of AMNH dioramas, including habitat groups from the Hall of North American Forests.

Call number: RF-103-A to RF-103-C & RF-104-A to RF104-Aa Title: [Paintings and drawings] [art original] Original art by Matthew Kalmenoff, one of the background artists for the Hall of North American Forests. Collection includes studies made by Kalmenoff for the Forestry Hall.

Link: Title: Timeline for the Department of Forestry: Evolution in Focus and Name Brief history of the Department of Forestry, including hall construction and department name changes, from the late 19th century to 1960.

Physical Description

This collection consists of documents originally filed under 30 individual tabs in a binder folder titled ‘FORESTRY’. The material consists of mainly typed paper documents (some handwritten).

American Museum of Natural History Hall of North American Forests notebook, 1955-1956
Emily Knowles
November 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017). Finding aid created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2012.
Edition statement
Minimal level collection record created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2010.

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420