New York USA

American Museum of Natural History

January 15, 2015

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” the security guard yelled after me. It was my third day in New York and I was trying to make my way from bag check to the ticket counter at the American Museum of Natural History. But he had already checked my bag, which I tried to explain. “Then why are you all the way over there?” he yelled back. “Because I’m trying to get out the fucking way!”

The thing about visiting a museum on a rainy day during the holidays in Manhattan, is that everyone else is too. The entrance hall was crowded with tourists and their screaming kids, and I had had about enough of the attitude that is the New York service industry. But my sister was at work and I had to keep myself entertained until at least 5pm, so there I was.

I had visited the museum once before on a family holiday in 2009. I was hoping the trip would inspire something for my portfolio. Only 15 students were accepted into the third-year photography specialisation that I was applying for and I wanted my photos to stand out. Turns out the lecturers at my interview didn’t even know who Hiroshi Sugimoto was – it was his work at AMNH I was attempting to encapsulate.

But really, I never needed an excuse to spend a day in a museum. Since childhood, I have always enjoyed exploring them. Old stuff smells good – like library books.

Five years later, and here I was again, marvelling up at the giant Allosaurus and Barosaurus skeletons and still wondering what the hell they have to do with Theodore Roosevelt.

I bought a ticket, checked my coat, and began my trek in the African Animals hall. It’s always comforting for me to see lions and elephants, however stuffed they may be. If I was going to survive a day as a sardine, I needed some time with my animals friends.

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I took a swift walk through African Peoples next  – the ignorant comments were almost too much to bear – and made my way through Birds of the World to the Stout Hall of Asian Peoples. I was particularly interested in the Japan exhibits, but figured a quick tour might inspire my next travel destination.

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I landed up at the dinosaurs next and sighed. The entire point of me returning to the museum was to see the exhibits I missed before, but I kept stumbling into halls I had already been in. You could really spend a night at this museum.

When I got to the Northwest Coast Indians, I took a break on a bench hiding in the back of the hall. I wanted to take advantage of the free wifi (travelling without service sucks) and enjoy a bit of silence. It didn’t last long – a tour group showed up.

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I wandered through the gem and mineral exhibits next and then through the Warburg Hall of New York State Environments. When I got to the North American Mammals, I did three loops trying to find the polar bears. Either they have taken them away or the central heat was making me dilly.

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There was a butterfly exhibit near the entrance I wanted to check out, but they were checking tickets and I realised I had lost mine somewhere between Primitive Mammals and Vertebrate Origins.

After a quick browse through the museum shop, I got my coat, walked around the block and tucked into a little sandwich shop for lunch.

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