New Mexico Museum of Natural History

This must-see museum is the only natural history museum built
in the United States during the twentieth century


A life-sized bronze Albertosaurus
created by David A. Thomas,
greets visitors to the
New Mexico Museum of
Natural History and Science
Photo by Kirk Gittings

Art, beauty, history and a stimulating learning environment: these words help describe the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Old Town Albuquerque. While a natural history museum may not be first on a list of someone interested in New Mexico's renowned fine arts, art and beauty are integral parts of this state-and visitor-funded museum that opened in January 1986. The Museum’s permanent exhibitions provide portraits of the natural history of New Mexico and the Southwest-from the beginning of the universe to the present day. Works of art help tell that story--two bronze dinosaur sculptures spectacularly mark the Museum's front entrance, a contemporary stone-and-steel sculpture graces the north entrance, permanent murals depict life in New Mexico hundreds of millions of years ago and temporary art exhibitions with a natural history theme make the Museum an important part of New Mexico's art community.

Two of the Museum’s more visible and dramatic works of art are a bronze recreation of Albertosaurus, an aggressive carnivore related to the more famous Tyrannosaurus rex, and a realistic sculpture of an adult Pentaceratops—a 75-million-year-old, five-horned dinosaur that has been discovered only in New Mexico.

Nicknamed "Spike", the Pentaceratops may be the most climbed—upon sculpture in New Mexico! Both of these outdoor sculptures are the work of David A. Thomas, whose attention to detail has earned him the respect of paleontologists, dinosaur lovers and art critics worldwide.

The unique explosion art of Evelyn Rosenberg is displayed above the Museum's Mountain Road entrance, and Federico Armijo's abstract sculpture Del Pasado al Futuro is set amid a tapestry of beautiful native New Mexico wildflowers. Inside the Museum, several murals depicting life in New Mexico during specific geologic periods are both instructive and masterful works of art. A three-story-high mural by world-famous artist Ely Kish in the Jurassic Hall is a stunning portrait of a time when an almost unimaginable array of animals roamed the earth. Contrast the Kish mural with one executed in 1960 by Jay Matternes for a study in different styles and techniques. Elsewhere in the Museum, a photo mural depicting the evolution of the horse was adapted (with a bit of artistic license) from the original by John Gurche which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution. Recently created by artist Phil Bircheff is a life-sized bronze sculpture of Coelophysis--a nimble carnivorous dinosaur that roamed New Mexico more than 225 million years ago. New Mexico's official state fossil, Coelophysis stands as tall as an average human, reinforcing the fact that life in the past--as life now--was wonderfully diverse.

Complementing the Museum's permanent exhibitions are traveling shows which feature works of art in many categories: oils, photographs, sculptures and pen and ink drawings. During the past few years, these small traveling exhibitions have ranged from a series of original oils by John James Audubon to the three-dimensional, fossil images of octogenarian artist Theodore McFall.

There are advantages to having been built in the 1980s--rather than in the 1880s as were this country's other natural history museum's: state-of-the art computer simulations, innovative and interactive exhibition components, an active concern for both learning and entertainment, and up-to-date scientific information come together in the Museum's exhibitions and programs.

Following the theme Timetracks: A Journey Through the Natural World, visitors explore the Museum's technologically sophisticated permanent exhibits--from the formation of the universe to the present day. Along your journey, you'll ride the one-and-only Evolator Time Machine, walk through an active volcano and peer into the dark and mysterious world of an Ice Age cave, and see several model dinosaurs in the New Mexico's Seacoast exhibit.

The Museum's Naturalist Center is a hands-on discovery room. The giant screen DynaTheater offers breathtaking film journeys into the modern world and beyond. A visit to the Museum isn't complete without browsing in NatureWorks, the Museum Store.

The Museum charges an admission fee and is a division of the State of New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs remote site

New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
1801 Mountain Road NW in Old Town
Albuquerque, NM 87104

Thanks to John Arnold.

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Albuquerque Metro Area - Volume 9

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LAST MODIFIED September 24, 2007

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