Tag Archive | American Museum of Natural History

AMNH Announces Redesign of Its Halls of Gems and Minerals with Unveiling of Monumental Amethyst Geode

Amethyst Geode Full
All Photos By Gail Except Where Indicated

If you’ve even been to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) here in Manhattan, you probably have a favorite wing or exhibit hall, because everybody does. Most people seem to favor the Dinosaurs, and while those halls are certainly worth visiting at least once, I think they are a little played out. And while I do enjoy the Hall of Ocean Life, which is mind-blowing, my very favorite part of the museum are the Halls of Gems and Minerals, and I will recommend and rave about them to anyone who will listen. So, it was a pretty big deal to me when I received news from the AMNH that they will undertake a complete redesign of these very popular exhibit halls, currently known as the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems and Harry Frank Guggenheim Hall of Minerals, transforming the 11,000-square-foot space into a gleaming showcase for their world-renowned collection! Wow! Not only that, but they also invited me to attend a media briefing event at the museum to witness the “Unveiling of a dazzling 12-foot-tall, 5-ton new acquisition!” Very exciting!

Amethyst Geode Full

The new acquisitiion turned out to be a 9,000 pound Amethyst Geode mined in Uruguay, which will be on temporary view in the Museum’s Grand Gallery through the 2017 holiday season.  The geode, which will eventually be a centerpiece in the new halls, is among the largest amethyst geodes in the world. I heard someone from the museum say that the Geode was nicknamed Stan. I am not sure if they were kidding or serious, but it pleases me to think that this gigantic rock crystal, which happens to also be my birthstone, has a nickname, and to wonder how they came up with Stan.

Current Hall of Gems
Current Hall of Gems and Minerals (Photo Courtesy of the AMNH)

The renovation of the Halls of Gems and Minerals, which are being designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, is part of a series of physical and programmatic enhancements to historic parts of the institution, leading up to its 150th anniversary and the opening of the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, a major new facility that will house resources for education, exhibition, and research, and reveal modern science to visitors of all ages.

Here are a few renderings of how the new Halls will look (all renderings images are courtesy of the AMNH).

New Hall of Gems
New Hall of Gems Entrance with Crystal Specimen Embedded in the Wall

Mineral formation zones rendering
Mineral Formation Zones Rendering. You Can See “Stan” at the Rear of The Hall.

Gem Gallery Rendering
Gem Gallery Rendering

Museum President Ellen V. Futter offered trhe following statement, “Whether you’re talking about the spectacular 563-carat Star of India sapphire or the unique almandine (deep-violet-hued)  Subway Garnet unearthed in New York City in 1885, the American Museum of Natural History is known for having one of the most spectacular and comprehensive collections of gems and minerals in the world.” Manhattan-based philanthropist couple Allison and Roberto Mignone are providing funding for the renovation, and as such the new hall will be named Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. The new halls will include many fun surprises, including  a fluorescence and phosphorescence gallery, featuring a massive panel of fluorescent rock from the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Ogdensburg, New Jersey, that glows in shades of orange and green under ultraviolet light!

Amethyst Geode Detail
Amethyst Geode Details

Amethyst Geode Detail

Amethyst Geode Detail

While the Halls of Gems and Minerals previously formed a cul-de-sac, they will soon feature a dramatic link, via a stunning Crystalline Pass on the north side of the halls, to the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, the new facility designed by Studio Gang Architects. Construction on the new Mignone Halls of Gems of Minerals has now begun, with the closure of the current halls on October 26th, 2017. The Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals are expected to open in 2019, as part of the Museum’s 150th anniversary celebration.

Amethyst Geode
This Image of the Amethyst Geode Courtesy of the AMNH

Ammonite Shell Fossil

Ammonite Shell
Photo By Gail

This shell is an Ammonite, a marine animal that went extinct at the same time as most dinosaurs, around 65 million years ago. The shell’s spectacular coloration is unusual and is found only in ammonites from Alberta, Canada, such as this one. For many millions of years, the shell was subject to high temperatures and pressures, which produced the iridescent effect.

Photographed in the Museum of Natural History in NYC.

Yes, It Exists: The Tardigrade

Tardigrade Exhibit Signage
All Photos By Gail

This past summer, the Museum of Natural History had a fun special exhibit called Life at the Limits: Stories of Amazing Species. There was an additional fee (above regular admission)  to get into the exhibit, but I paid it because I wanted to see this thing that looks like a Bear in a Hazmat Suit. Because, What the Hell is That Thing? I wondered.

Tardigrade Model

It turns out that Hazmat Bear is called a Tardigrade — a water-dwelling, eight-legged, segmented micro-animal — and it was definitely the star of the show! There were giant, suspended Tardigrade models all over the ceiling inside the exhibit, accompanied by many informative placards telling you why they are so special.

For example, the microscopic Tardigrade can survive for years without water. Generally, it lives on damp moss, where water forms a film around its body. If the moss dries out, the Tardigrade senses trouble. It shrinks into a ball and its vital systems nearly shut down. The dried-out-ball — called a Tun — can live on for up to a decade, then spring back to action when moistened with water again. Fascinating.

Two Tardigrades

The Tardigrade has some fun nicknames as well, such as the “Water Bear” or “Moss Piglet” (My favorite). Tardigrades are a large group of animals that includes some of the toughest creatures in the world. They have been known to survive temperatures far above boiling, and colder than the surface or Pluto. In a word: Resilient!

Tardigrade Model Photo

Why had I never even heard of these little guys before learning about them in a museum exhibit?

Tardigrade, I am glad you exist!

Pink Thing of The Day: Pink Morganite Crystal Goddess

Pink Morganite Goddess
Photo By Gail

As a way to escape the oppressive heat here in Manhattan this past Sunday, we went on an Urban Adventure to the American Museum of Natural History, where we spotted this little Pink Morganite Goddess statue is on display in The Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems. If you haven’t yet managed to see this particular area of the museum, you really do need to check it out.

The Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems exhibits a vast array of precious and ornamental stones — uncut, polished, and even a few set in elaborate pieces of jewelry — as well as organic materials such as coral and amber, that are prized as gems. The exhibit gallery is also designed like you are perusing a rather posh jewelry store, and benefits from what I would refer to as “mood lighting. The effect is very calming.

Morganite is a stone that is often called Pink Emerald, probably because both of these stones are varieties of Beryl. You will learn so music about gems and minerals during your visit, and it is a nice break from the Dinosaurs.

Gemstone Sculptures

Here’s nice shot of the entire display case.

Pink Morganite Goddess

And here’s a slightly more in-focus close-up of the same statue, with Geoffrey photo bombing in the background.

Origami Christmas Tree at The American Museum of Natural History

Origami Christmas Tree
All Photos By Gail, Click on any Photo to Enlarge for Detail

The American Museum of Natural History has its Holiday Tree on display, and what’s special about this tree is that it is decorated entirely with Origami Ornaments! The theme of this year’s tree is Wicked, Wild and Wonderful, honoring the Museum’s new exhibition The Power of Poison. The ornaments were created especially for the tree by volunteers who began a Facebook likes campaign for it and started folding them in July to complete hundreds of creations that are displayed on the tree and around its base. Here are some of our favorites from this years display!

Origami Giraffes and Green Frog
A family of Giraffes and a Green Frog

Witches from MacBeth
Trio of Witches from Macbeth Surrounding their Cauldron

Origami Cobra
Coiled Cobra

Origami Bees with Honeycomb
Red Ants, Bees, Honeycomb

Origami Octopi
Origami Octopi

Origami Geko Rhino Peacock
Geko, Rhinos and Peacock

Origami Blue Parrot, Tarantula Lizards
Blue Parrot, Tarantula and Lizards

Origami Killer Whales
Killer Whales

Origami Flamingos and T Rex
Pink Flamingos and a Red T Rex

Origami Stegosaurus

There are tons of Dinosaurs on the Tree, including the orange Stegosaurus seen above (visit the the Museum’s 4th Floor to see his Bones!)

The Origami Holiday Tree will be on Display through January 12, 2014 at the AMNH, Located on Central Park West Between 77th Street and 81st Street (Take the C Train to 81st) in the Grand Gallery, Near the 77th Street exit on the Museum’s First Floor.

Twinkly Stars
Twinkly Stars!

Origami Tree Sign

Origami Holiday Tree 2018
2018 Holiday Tree Representing an Underwater Theme

The Grateful Dead, Dinosaurs and Really Weird Fish

More than a few times in my life, I have found myself in relationships with really great guys who are also hardcore Deadheads. Hard to believe, yes, but it can happen to the best of us. Over the course of these otherwise happy relationships, I was often subjected to the unimaginable multi-sensory torture that is a live Grateful Dead concert. I was never able to really grok the attraction to this band of profoundly unattractive men that played meandering, soporific and somewhat dissonant music. Then one night at Madison Square Garden, a certain vital ingredient that had been missing from all previous Dead concert experiences was thrown into the mix. Finally, at long last, I “got” The Dead. Since that time I have been much more tolerant of The Grateful Dead and its vast legion of unwashed fans, because “China Cat-Rider” is awesome.

Love them or hate them, there is no denying that The Grateful Dead is a legendary band that made an indelible impact on rock music; not just aurally but visually and socially as well. Through July 4, 2010, The New York Historical Society (located at Central Park West and 77th Street), presents a very fun exhibit, Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New York Historical Society, which I strongly recommend not just to Deadheads but any fan of rock culture. While the exhibit is smaller than I was lead to believe, Geoffrey and I really enjoyed looking through the displayed archives of vintage concert posters, tickets, backstage passes and assorted memorabilia as well as a fascinating collection of psychedelic, hand-drawn fan art collected by members of The Dead over their lengthy career. It was also surprising to learn about how The Dead revolutionized live concert sound with the invention of their “Wall of Sound” monitor system. Grateful Dead tunes are piped into the room as you browse the exhibits and I actually found myself digging the music in a nostalgic, comforting way. Oldness!

Geoffrey, who never had the chance to see The Dead, as Jerry Garcia passed away on the very day he purchased a ticket for one of their upcoming concerts, has posted some cool pictures of the exhibit over at his blog, According 2 G Dot Com. You should check that out. While I thought that the $12 admission price was a little steep for this exhibit alone, we did venture up to one of the higher floors, where a mind-blowing collection of antique Tiffany glass lamps made the trip uptown more that worth it. Afterward, we walked a couple of blocks over to the American Museum of Natural History (free admission provided courtesy of my day gig), where we spent the remainder of a very rainy afternoon gleefully enjoying the Dinosaur bones and my personal favorite, the Hall of Ocean Life. Have a great weekend, everybody!