The American Museum of Natural History reopened on Wednesday to the general public after nearly six months of COVID-induced shutdown and, as at MoMA last week, the 151-year-old institution was as empty as it's probably ever been during regular hours.
All of the now-familiar pandemic protocols are in place, including timed tickets, 25% capacity, temperature checks at security, one-way viewing traffic to encourage distancing, and mandatory masks throughout. There are several coronavirus closures inside as well, with high-contact spots like touch screens, the entire Hall of Meteorites, and the Teddy Roosevelt statue in the lower lobby, all shut down or cordoned off. The Roosevelt statue outside of the museum, however, is no longer barricaded, as it was earlier this summer.
One of the deep pleasures of this museum is how many details, both large (the Blue Whale) and small (the half-chewed salmon in the Alaska Brown Bear diorama) have remained exactly the same over so many years and decades, or at least since the late 1960s when I first started coming here. The Fossil Halls, the Primates, Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals, the Cultural Halls, the tribute to North American Forests with that massive cross-section of the tree... all are back in business.
Two special exhibitions, both requiring an additional entry fee, have also reopened: the splashy Nature of Color; and the small but crowd-pleasing T-rex: The Ultimate Predator, which I had almost entirely to myself. The pricing here is a little complicated. General Admission is $23 for adults, or pay-what-you-wish for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut residents. General Admission plus admittance into one of the special exhibitions is $28, or whatever your pay-what-you-wish price was, plus that again minus fifty cents. Like if you paid $5 to get in, the T-rex show would be $4.50, so $9.50 total.
Despite the general emptiness of the space there was certainly no lack of enthusiasm among those I saw there yesterday, with kids running around under the whale, or getting freaked out by that Komodo dragon eating the boar, or reading everything in sight and visibly learning about, for example, the skulls of the Hypacrosaurus Altispinus.
If you can snag a spot, the COVID-era AMNH offers an unprecedented opportunity to roam these corridors for as long as you like in relative calm and quiet.
The American Museum of Natural History is located at 200 Central Park West, at about 79th Street, and is currently open on Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (amnh.org)