Database of AMNH Permanent Hall Names

Prepared and written by Valerie Thaler, Museum Volunteer

View the spreadsheet (.xls)

Introduction

Unlike the myriad species in its collections, the permanent halls of the American Museum of Natural History have never been given precise names. The hall currently known as “Northwest Coast Indians” had sixteen different names from 1904-1964, the period covered by this first version of the Database of AMNH Permanent Hall Names. The situation is similar for every other permanent hall. This lack of precise names makes research difficult for anyone — staff or outside researcher — looking at the history of the Museum and its displays. Bringing all of the name variants along with their associated physical locations together in a sortable format will save hours of duplicate work by different people and expedite and clarify the historical context of this motley and ever changing collection of buildings and the treasures they hold. With the evolution of linked open data structures, where well-defined authorities will be the keystone, having this information in place will make it possible for us to move into the semantic web. This database will eventually span the period from the Museum’s inception to the present.

Abbreviations and Conventions Used in Database

GG – General Guide
AR – Annual Report

Page Numbers for Sources

  • When a page number of a source is followed by a “+”, for example “p. 39+,” it means that the source is on an unnumbered page following the page number specified. This is often the case when the source is a picture in an annual report.
  • When a page number of a source in an annual report is in brackets, “p. [17]” for example, it means that the annual report itself had no page numbers and the page number of the pdf version is being used instead.

Conventions for Indentifying Locations of Permanent Halls

  • The location of permanent halls is generally designated by floor and section in the format
    “1-5” (floor 1, section 5).
  • If the section is represented by letters, for example 2-WC, it designates a hall that is in a corridor. In this example, on the 2nd floor in the West Corridor. The section name (e.g. West Corridor) is specified in the Section Name field of the database.
  • If the section is represented by a number and a letter, for example 1-7a, it designates a hall that is located in a corridor of the section number section. In this example, a corridor of section 7 on floor 1.
  • When sorting the database by Floor & Section in ascending order, halls with non-numeric section designations fall to the bottom of the sort.

Hall Transitions and Oddities

  • Sometimes old and new hall names exist simultaneously. For example, while the Warburg Hall was being constructed in 1-3, the Annual Reports referred to the space with its new name (and variants) while the General Guides continued to refer to the space as the Jesup Hall (and variants).
  • Occasionally the same name is used for two different halls. For example, the name “African Hall” sometimes refers to the African mammal halls other times refers to the African ethnology hall.

Methodology for Identifying Hall Name Variants

1904-1923 – General Guides

Hall names taken from:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Floor plans for each floor
  3. Heading of section in guide pertaining to hall (In a few instances, there is also a variant name given in a subheading)
  4. Text of section pertaining to hall
  5. Picture captions
  6. Text of sections not pertaining to hall in question, but mentioning it by name.

Hall names not taken from:

  1. Key to Exhibition halls
  2. Index

Example from 1923 General Guide for hall in location 2-6:

Included:

Table of Contents: Prehistoric Man of North America and Europe
Floor Plan: Prehistoric Man of North America
Section Heading: Evolution of Prehistoric Cultures
Section Subheading: Natural History of Man

Not Included:

Key to Exhibition Halls: Man, Early
Index: Man, Evolution of; Early; Natural History of

1926-1927 – General Guides

The museum was in a state of flux during these years and could not produce a complete guide because of all the temporary arrangements.

Hall names taken from:

  1. List of open halls by floor
  2. Picture captions

1928-1939 – General Guides

Hall names taken from:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Heading of section in guide pertaining to hall
  3. Text of section pertaining to hall
  4. Picture captions
  5. Text of sections not pertaining to hall in question, but mentioning it by name.

Hall names not taken from:

  1. Floor plans for each floor (not all floors have plans); plans are less detailed than before.
  2. Key to Exhibition halls
  3. Index

 1943-1949 – General Guides

Hall names taken from:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Floor plans for each floor
  3. Heading of section in guide pertaining to hall
  4. Text of section pertaining to hall
  5. Picture captions
  6. Text of sections not pertaining to hall in question, but mentioning it by name.

1953-1958 – General Guides

Hall names taken from:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Floor plans for each floor. However, when a hall label indicates contents and not a hall name, it is not included.
    Note: There appear to have been two editions of the 1953 GG. A green bound volume that was used as a circulating copy has a completely different floor plan from all the other copies of the 1953 GG in the AMNH library. The 1956 and 1958 guides follow the predominant style of the 1953 GG (not the far more useful style of the bound volume.)
  3. Subheadings of chapters when they correspond to a hall name.
  4. Text of section pertaining to hall
  5. Picture captions
  6. Text of sections not pertaining to hall in question, but mentioning it by name.

Annual Reports

Hall names in the Annual Reports are found by searching the pdf versions of the reports for the character string “hall.” Because of the imperfections of OCR, the search includes instances where the character string “hall” is imbedded in another word. In reality, in the annual reports OCR frequently treats whole groups of words as if they were a single word.

When an Annual Report indicates that a hall is to be constructed and the future location of the hall is unambiguous, the location is entered in the “Floor & Section” column. When a hall is actually under construction, the location is entered. When a hall is planned, but never built, the “Floor & Section” column is blank, but the proposed location is indicated in the “Notes” column. When a hall is planned for one location and built in another, the “Floor & Section” column is blank when the Annual Report refers to the unrealized location. An example of this is the “Astronomical Hall” which eventually became the Hayden Planetarium. For many years Section 7 was the planned location for this hall. It was eventually built in Section 18. This is explained in the “Notes” column.

 

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