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Fossil Halls, American Museum of Natural History

New York, New York

Fossil Halls, American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is the United States’ largest science museum. Its collection of dinosaur fossils is the most complete in the world. RAA’s reinstallation and restoration of the museum’s dinosaur galleries in the early 1990s was the most comprehensive redevelopment project of its type in the museum’s history, introducing a new generation of visitors to the natural wonders of our prehistoric world.

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RAA planned and designed the renovation of the six Fossil Halls and the Barosaurus installation in the museum’s rotunda. An unparalleled collection of fossils tells the complete story of vertebrate evolution. The halls were returned to their nineteenth-century grandeur, with daylight and details reemerging.

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The installations demonstrate the changing nature of science, feature the work of the museum’s scientists, and give visitors insight into the scientific process through interactive programs that allow glimpses of behind-the-scenes research. The Orientation Center provides an open, sit-down theater for 150 people. Public circulation through the galleries becomes part of the interpretive program: visitors walk along the trunk and branches of a giant family tree that traces evolutionary relationships. Minimal barriers around the specimens allow the public to get close to the fossils.

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Opening in the 1990s, the permanent exhibitions have been largely unchanged since. The museum continues to be a premier destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike, boasting an annual visitation of over five million.

Year 1996

Size 50,000 square feet

Architect Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates

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Photography ©Scott Frances/Esto