A Natural History Museum is a special kind of museum that displays a variety of exhibitions ranging a wide selection of topics, specializing, as the name implies, in the history of nature. These museums often display fossils and cadavers of specimens relating to the history of life on our planet. The natural history museum is probably one of my favorite kinds of museums. As a lover of nature and the documentaries surrounding it, it is a wonderful opportunity to examine an example of whatever creature I have become infatuated with recently. The scope of the title “Natural History museum” lends itself to an eclectic variety of exhibitions. Ranging from plant life, natural factors of the planet’s environment to the creatures that dwell on it and species that have been long extinct. I remember, as a kid, being a great lover of fiction, getting to visit the museum of the north in Fairbanks and being struck by the strange assemblages of bones, invoking fantasies of strange creatures and alien landscapes that were very real. The evidence was standing right in front of me.

As a history lover and major, talk of natural history museums always brings to mind one of my heroes and favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt. As a child, Roosevelt had a great fondness for the world around him and the creatures in it. This was so much so that he had decided to create a museum of natural history of his very own, in his parents’ home, much to their dismay. Hats filled with frogs and the corpses of various mammals being brought home by the small boy would be common occurrences. I recollect reading a story in one of his biographies. He had started to run some errands for his mother, only to find that the body of a seal had washed up on shore nearby. Roosevelt promptly shirked his duties to his mother in order to spend the entire day making measurements of the creature and poking it with various gauges of stick. He then returned home to beg his mother to allow him to retrieve the now extremely bloated corpse for his collection. The request was denied, and Roosevelt would denote his sheer misery in his journal. Later in his life, Roosevelt would contribute to natural history museums in other ways, namely, taking expeditions to exotic locales, financed by the Smithsonian, in order to kill and retrieve specimens himself. Roosevelt, of course, also instituted the National park service, which is now responsible for massive efforts to conserve the natural beauty of the United States. The organization also preserves massive numbers of natural specimens from the parks, which can be made available for study as well as loan to learning institutions across the country.

Do you have an individual you look up to that has contributed to the development of museums in a similar way?

Above is a photo of Theodore Roosevelt at age 7, found at the National parks service’s website about him.

5 Thoughts to “Discussion 2”

  1. Martin Gutoski

    It’s hard to contrast the parallel universe of American expansionism of Teddy Roosevelt compared with his conservation ideals. His many great African game hunts did net a massive collection of animals for the early museums. If I recall correctly the big elephant that greets visitors to the AMNH was shot by him or his cohorts?
    Thanks to his efforts to expand the US influence worldwide by opening up a can of whup ass on the faltering Spanish empire, we have acquired most of their Pacific island holdings only to lose Cuba to others.
    Even though he did not make his countenance in granite at Mt Rushmore was in stark contrast to the Blackfoot nation’s loss of that territory for that purpose. However, I do applaud all his efforts to make the national park system what it became today and his penchant for collecting animals and artifacts for our national museums.

  2. Michael Hubert

    since I lived in Louisiana for awhile, I had a friend that would trap gators. he did this if they were in a lake or pond and would catch them if they were not supposed to be there or were getting to aggressive. He would catch them and then re home them. some of the bigger ones that might be poached if someone saw where he did this would be given to zoos or the local gator farm where people could come to see them and they could live and be safe. I always thought that he could just take the simple way out and shoot and kill them, but he went to extra mile to make sure that they were safe and that he educated people about gators too.

  3. Barbara Long

    Good Evening,
    Do you have an individual you look up to that has contributed to the development of museums in a similar way?

    An archaeologist in San Bernardino, California contributed to the museum in numerous ways. His discoveries in Wyoming and Montana of large fauna are exhibited throughout the museum and are wonderful, as well as educational. He may not be a Teddy Roosevelt, but his artifacts have brought in visitors and created discussions. Museums can be influence by many and change dramatically throughout time. It is not one person that makes the museum. A museum is a sum of all who have an interest, participated, and contributed to its eventual collections, while imparting culture. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Angela Linn

      I agree with you 100% Barbara that “it is not one person that makes the museum,” but in my own research into the history of Alaska’s museums, it’s shocking the influence a single person can make on the overall success or failure of a museum. That might be from the inside as an employee, or the outside, as a collector or benefactor. It’s an interesting question to consider!

  4. Barbara Long

    Good Evening,

    Yes, I agree with you as well. I have met people who have influenced a museum’s collection or its overall success. It can be one benefactor or many benefactors. However, I think this is rare. We have great museums and then we have museums that are not so great. It comes down to a commitment level. Museums are dynamic and are reflections of the individuals who have participated in their creation and so much more. I could go on for ever. I’m not an expert, but I have learned a lot along the way. Thank you!

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