I have loved photographing in natural history museums for a long time. My friends and husband point out how often something happens in my life that makes so many past events make more sense. I remember going to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with my dad in the spring of 2006 (and making pictures like this and this, when I knew a lot about making proper exposures and scanning and saving images digitally, sheesh) and loving it, and then… not really thinking about it again? Now most of my photographing is done in natural history museums and I have such a passion for visiting them and learning about them. It’s funny to look back on now.
The American Museum of Natural History has been on the very top of my dream list of places to photograph since I started looking seriously at museums and taxidermy in about 2010, but I never thought it was realistic to go once I moved away from the East Coast. With the possibility of moving further west coming up, I convinced myself it had to happen, and with some time off work for the holiday and meticulous planning, I booked a super short trip for me and Nat, pretty much just for the purpose of spending a day at the museum. And it was incredible! Just as incredible as I always knew it would be! Which is probably why I didn’t feel so tears-in-my-eyes heart-struck and overwhelmed as I have in the past in new museums and was able to enjoy it and focus on the pictures I needed to make for the projects I am trying to wrap up. We spent an entire day at the museum, from open to close, and still saw only about half of it, at most; just the animal dioramas (and some dinosaurs, too).
I think my favorite space was the Hall of North American Mammals. I had been reading about the background paintings at AMNH and seeing them in-person blew my mind. So much detail, and they usually go unnoticed in dioramas! The lighting is also perfect in a lot of the dioramas, and the scenes are so complex sometimes; it’s obvious that a lot of care and attention went into making them. The Hall of Ocean Life was incredible, and unlike anything I had ever seen before. The surface of the water! So cool! We of course loved the 94-foot-long blue whale model, and were really excited to see the squid and the whale (“I told Carl. I also told Matt and Dale. Mom says we should tell people!”). The Akeley Hall of African Mammals did not disappoint, but my second-favorite space was probably the Hall of North American Birds. I always look for patterns within museums, like at AMNH there were more than a few dioramas featuring mother birds feeding their young (as in here and here). We also noticed lots of birds on animals, and Nat in particular liked the curved diorama tops. I had read some criticism about the museum’s condition and need for updating, but I honestly thought it was perfect. I’m so happy to be able to check this place off my list.
See all the pictures from November, with many more from the museum