Monday, February 20, 2012

An Ode to the American Museum of Natural History

My iPhone photo of the AMNH
Shot from CPW last Saturday
First, some apologies.  While no one lives or dies based on my ability to write frequent and coherent blog posts, it has been some time since I've written for the medium.  Although, in my defense, I did get off a nice post earlier this month for my friend and colleague Sarah Trachtenberg's blog, Not my God, here is the link to that guest post.

I missed writing about Darwin Day - and some other goings on.  My only excuse is that work at the new place (which is wonderful) and several projects have taken my eye off the ball.

That should change as we move closer to spring and summer.  My goal is to write about one blog post per week at a minimum, looking for quality over quantity, and its always a balancing act. I can't wait to tweet (#paleolibrarian) and blog from the Reason Rally in Washington, DC on the 24th of March, and from my speaking trip to the First Annual PATAS convention in Manila, Philippines, in late April.

But last Saturday, I took several of my anthropology students to the American Museum of Natural History.  I've been going there my entire life, and as a native New Yorker, I always find myself up there. If NYC is my beacon than the AMNH is my nest.  I am biased, but I honestly believe that  that there is no finer museum dedicated to science, history, evolution, ethnography, astronomy and every other "ology" in the known universe.

It is a spectacular place to learn and observe the best of what we know about the mechanics of life on Earth and the cosmos - and while the suggested price for admission is close to $20 - the reality is entree to the museum is really free!  One of New York's very well kept secrets.

My students had an assignment to visit one of the following, the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins; the Saurischian (lizard hipped) and Ornithischian (bird hipped) dinosaur exhibits, or the Hall of Primates, and write a paper based on some questions regarding natural selection and evolution.  The excitement of my students always invigorates me and refreshes my own energy levels. Seeing the museum through their eyes allows me to see things that perhaps I've missed on my own visits over the years.

The only sad part of the trip was walking over to Maxilla and Mandible, one of the coolest retail stores which sold all kinds of fossils and cadavers, only to find the place had closed.  The store was located about a block away from the Museum on Columbus Avenue and had first opened its doors in 1983.  The store was a victim of the still sluggish economy and high rents that all entrepreneurs have to pay to sell in New York City.

Even with the loss of M&M, New York remains one of the most vibrant and beautiful cities in the world.  And if one had to visit just a few of the city's thousands of attractions, restaurants and neighborhoods, the AMNH would always be at or close to the top of my list.