What happens when two grown-up nerds are let loose in the American Museum of Natural History to mingle with a diverse cross-section of nature and humanity? There’s only one way to find out…

American Museum of Natural History - Atlas Obscura Visits - Annetta & Sarah


We made our way across town to pay a visit to one of the world’s best purveyors of cultural and scientific information to the masses. Having limited time to peruse the exhibitions, we made a beeline for the famous fourth floor’s hall of fossils.

American Museum of Natural History - Fourth Floor - Dinosaur Fossils

Though this probably isn’t news to many of you familiar with the Museum of Natural History: dinosaurs are everywhere up there! I immediately became entranced by a row of triceratops skulls – arranged by development stage – to my left. It’s no wonder that folks in the “olden days” believed in dragons!

 Triceratops Fossil Skulls - Dragon Skulls - American Museum of Natural History


Annetta, meanwhile, was drawn deeper into the hall’s innards, leisurely perusing examples of the paraceratherium, sky turtles, and the Irish elk.

 Peraceratherium - Largest Land Mammal to Ever Live - Atlas Obscura at the AMNH

A wire-frame paraceratherium, the largest land mammal to have ever lived! 


Sky Turtle - Huge Turtle Fossil Skeleton - Atlas Obscura - NYC AMNH

See how the majestic sky turtle soars through the rafters!


Extinct Irish Elk - Atlas Obscura Blog - American Museum of Natural History

Extinct Irish Elk, why do your antlers look like Rorschach blots?


A few minutes later she stumbled upon a group of camel skeletons about the size of your average golden retriever. She’d taken a particular liking to them. Then, two women entered her bubble, conversing:


Lady 1: Oh! Look at those stupid camels.

Lady 2: [reading display sign] That’s bullshit! Why can’t they tell how old they are?

Lady 1: It’s hard to date things that old, so they give a date-range.

Lady 2: Well that’s ridiculous. The world’s only 6000 years old anyway.

Lady 1: What? How do you know that?

Lady 2: The Bible.


Stupid Camels - Extinct Miniature Camels - Atlas Obscura Blog - AMNH


Yup… What were such a pair doing in a museum like the AMNH? What could they possibly hope to get out of their visit?


Meandering onward, we learned – much to our surprise! – that horses and whales actually share a branch on the animal family tree. Somehow this information prepared us to be channeled in the direction of a herd/pride/group of mammoth at the end of this particular hall. A group of twenty-somethings were perusing the mammoths:


Gentleman One: It’s not as big as I thought it would be.

Gentleman Two: I’m waiting to find the rest of the Power Rangers.


Mammoth Tusks - Atlas Obscura in the American Museum of Natural History


Again, what the hell?


Downstairs we partook in a bit of a respite from the crowd. Carefully pinned butterflies butted positioned next to lobsters pickled in jars were adjacent to a skeletal dodo bird witnessing a battle royale endangered animals that would never be neighbors in the real world. Smoke was beginning to pour from my ears.


Butterfly Pinned Specimens - Pickled Lobsters in Jars - American Museum of Nat'l Hist



Extinct Dodo Bird Skeleton - Atlas Obscura - AMNH Much.


Animal Battle Royale - Atlas Obscura - Natural History Museum NYC



All in all, while I had expected that my first visit to the AMNH would be memorable, I didn’t foresee it being on account of the other museum-goers (Annetta excluded, though she’s memorable in her own, fabulous way).


Over all, the experience was very fun, very unexpected, and very overwhelming. Next time, I definitely need to spend more time in the ocean area of the museum. Perhaps it will be slightly less controversial/disappointing to those around me.  I mean, who could possibly argue with the giant squid versus sperm whale diorama?


Squid versus Whale - Amerian Museum of Natural History - Atlas Obscura