What makes a Natural History Museum different than other types of museums?
Obviously, natural history museums have the largest collection of items among museums – they deal with not only the history of the natural world, but also the present. But they also have a ton of different categories to cover! Animals of the region (prehistoric, historic, and present), plants of the region, animals and plants that aren’t local to the region, how people used those plants and animals throughout history, and how natural events such as earthquakes, storms, fires, etc affected the ecosystem.
In my experience, natural history museums are some of the best museums to visit in foreign areas, simply to get a quick overview of the area and what’s local to visit. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, and there are some amazing natural history museums here. The best one (in my opinion) is the Natural History Museum of Utah, run by the University of Utah (https://nhmu.utah.edu/). They cover absolutely everything local to Utah, from dinosaur fossils found in the state to stories of the region’s Native Americans to foreign cultures. One of my family’s favorite exhibits there is the dinosaur room. Dinosaur National Park is only about 4 hours away from Salt Lake, right on the eastern border of Utah and Colorado, and the majority of the fossils were found in that area. One specimen is even named after the state – The Utahraptor! But as you can see if you clicked on the link to the museum, there is so, so much more there. There’s an earthquake simulator and a visual representation of the Great Salt Lake and just how much it’s shrunk throughout time, a Native American exhibit with historical and present day stories, and exhibits on the different geology is found in the state. 10/10 recommend this natural history museum!

When you travel, do you seek out museums to visit? What kind are they?


One Thought to “Types of Museums”

  1. Angela Linn

    Thanks for highlighting one of your favorite natural history museums! They are certainly well respected and I’ve heard great things about their exhibits as well as their curatorial activities. I definitely will check out how they handle the presentation of Indigenous peoples in their galleries – as we discussed in Kai’s post for this module, including only Indigenous peoples in natural history museums is problematic as it labels their cultures as somehow more closely connected to the “natural world” as opposed to the objects and stories presented in “history” and “art” museums.

    Let’s continue to keep this idea in mind and challenge ourselves, even when we’re visiting our favorite museums, to think about whose stories are being told and by whom. Why are the stories of the Navajo and Paiute told in galleries next to dinosaurs and insects and not in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (https://umfa.utah.edu/current-exhibitions)?

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