Skip to main content

Education Service Materials

Identifier: Mem 310

Scope and Contents

The Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History takes Museum research and scientific data and makes it accessible to teachers and students. In 1903, the Museum partnered with schools to create a system of circulating natural history collections, developed and designed by the Museum to provide teachers with teaching materials, specimens, and artifacts to support specially designed educational readings and lesson plans on a variety of subjects in the natural sciences. These traveling cases were loaned to schools for short periods, distributed directly to schools around the city by foot messengers and Museum delivery trucks. The program continued for several decades, ending in the 1960s.

The present grouping is a representative sample of these circulating materials, which include traveling display cases built by Museum carpenters. The wooden cases where self-contained miniature exhibits with built-in handles for transporting them around the city. The cases contained a variety of subjects, including small taxidermized animals, such as rodents and birds, exhibit panels showcasing different types of fabrics, and miniature dioramas. There are loose exhibit panels dispalying animal anatomies, mineral samples, and animal classifications charts. To enhance public instruction at the Museum, the Education department developed a teaching collection that included materials harvested across the Museum. The group also contains a lantern slide box, wax models of plants and animals, wax figures representing Mexican women and men, toys, and illustrations of individuals in ethnic costumes.

While the bulk of these items can be dated roughly from the start of the program in 1903 to the 1960s, this grouping contains fish prints made by the natural history artist Sherman Foote Denton in 1895. These materials represent the evolution of the Museum’s mission to be an educational resource for New York City, and exemplifies the development of a pedagogical thought that evolved to incorporate visual instruction and tactile learning, giving way to new methods that required observation and engagement from the student.


  • Majority of material found within 1903-circa 1970
  • 1895-circa1970



45 Items

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Most of these objects were used by the Department of Education from 1903 to the 1960s.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These materials were transferred from the Department of Education of the American Museum of Natural History.


The dates are pulled from the Museum’s annual records, photographs, and vertical files. The main sources were the following:

The museum and nature study in the public schools. Osborn, Henry Fairfield, 1857-1935.; Sherwood, George Herbert, 1876-1937.

Annual report, 1955. . Contains a very detailed account of the Department of Education’s activities throughout the year.

Annual Report 1905

The Museum in Education. George H. Sherwood. The Journal of the American Museum of Natural History. Vol. XXX No5. Sept-Oct 1930.
Education Service Materials,1903-circa 1970
Camila Aguirre
April 4, 2023
Language of description
Script of description

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