NYC Recap | American Museum of Natural History

April 20, 2010 · Print This Article

After our show at apexart opened and Jeffery Deitch and Carlo McCormick’s talk were all over, my girlfriend, Gracen, and I had Friday to try and catch as many museums, galleries, and bookstores (mainly Printed Matter) as possible. Gracen works for the Field Museum in Chicago in the Insect Division, where she spends most of her days dis-articulating beetles. When she found out we were going to be in New York, she contacted the American Museum of Natural History to see if we could get a behind the scenes tour of their collections. Dr. Lee Herman was kind enough to show us around his office and pull a couple of specimens out for us. Since Gracen and I could not settle on what images to use or who was best suited to discuss this (she’s shy) we will be tag teaming this post. All of Gracen’s comments will appear in purple.

Although curatorial practices are generally  standardized, there can still be some variations in how an individual curator organizes their collection. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is well known for many of their collections, which I was looking forward to checking out. The museum houses the most important research collection of insects fossilized in amber, containing the oldest known amber dating back to the Cretaceous period (circa 145.5 to 65.5million years ago) and the largest spider (Araneae) collection in the world. The museum houses Alfred Kinsey‘s (that’s right – the sex dude) entire gall wasp collection, which he studied for his doctoral thesis. With so many renowned specimens, we asked Lee to show us some of his favorites.


Overlooking Central Park West, Lee’s office was a well sized work and reading space. When asked if the museum had a private library Lee replied, “this is it” as he gestured towards his bookshelves. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to take photographs of some drawings he had completed on female genital that felt like an older generation of draftsmanship that he still maintained.  As Gracen and him talked shop I glanced around the room; old maps, toys and stack of papers were small mounds in neat stacks around his desk. Read more