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Natural History Museum (Laura Silverman)

Reviewed by: Laura Silverman, Life Science Teacher, 7th grade, Mulholland Middle School


The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Phone: (213) 763-DINO,



The Natural History Museum is located in Exposition Park, at 900 Exposition Boulevard between Vermont Avenue and Figueroa Street.

GPS coordinates, and a link to Google Map. 

Google Map

Description:  Please provide a paragraph description of the field trip.  Include a physical description of the site, explanation of ownership/management, mission (if an institution), history, access, and other relevant issues.

Museum Hours 

We are open seven days a week, 9:30 am - 5 pm, all year, except for the following holidays.  

We are closed: 

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday of November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)


Members FREE
Children 4 and under FREE
Children 5-12 $5.00
Youth 13-17 $8.00
College Students w/ ID $9.00
Seniors 62+ $9.00
Adults $12.00

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

  • protects over 35 million specimens, dating back 4.5 billion years.
  • is a resource for Southern California teachers.
  • is an authority on the "big picture" of the planet, the natural and the cultural world.
  • tracks the Earth's biodiversity, because knowing what is out there is the first step to conservation.

History of the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is situated on land that served as an agricultural fairground from 1872 until 1910. In the 1890s, a local attorney and Sunday school teacher, William Miller Bowen, became increasingly alarmed by the growing numbers of saloons, gambling events, and other vices that existed in the park. In 1909, he led the fight to convince the State, County, and City to develop the park as a cultural center. In this plan, the State would build an exposition building for California products (and later an armory); the County would build a historical and art museum; and the City would maintain the grounds. This tripartite ownership still exists today.

The museum building was located on the western axis of the proposed sunken rose garden of Agricultural Park, renamed Exposition Park in December 1910. On December 17 of that year, with Bowen, Mayor George Alexander, future California Governor William H. Stephens and other dignitaries in attendance, and with the Grand Lodge of Masons of California officiating, the Museum’s cornerstone was laid and construction began. 

The Original Museum

The original structure — what is today known colloquially as the 1913 Building — was designed by local architects Frank Hudson and William A.D. Munsell. It incorporated an eclectic blend of styles: Spanish Renaissance ornamentation is seen in the terracotta trimmings; Romanesque style in the arched windows and the brick walls; and the Beaux-Arts tradition in the T-shaped floor plan.

The focal point of the 1913 Building was, and is today, the rotunda, which measures 75 feet in diameter with three wings. The rotunda’s walls are made of Italian marble, its floor of mosaic tile. Julia Bracken Wendt’s “Three Muses” statue graces its center. The rotunda’s dome is 58 feet in height, with a skylight 20 feet across, designed by the eminent Walter Horace Judson.

As the Museum was being built, four local organizations — the Historical Society of Southern California, the Cooper Ornithological Club, the Southern California Academy of Sciences, and the Fine Arts League — were persuaded to fill the galleries of the new museum. The museum was given the exclusive rights in 1913 to remove the prehistoric remains from the tar pits at Rancho La Brea. Mammal skeletons continued to dominate the science wing of the Museum until 1976, when they were moved to the Cenozoic Hall and to the George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries. 

The Grand Opening

On November 6, 1913, Exposition Park and the new museum — called then the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science, and Art at the time — opened formally to the public. A two-week civic celebration ensued, dovetailing with the opening of the Owens River Aqueduct. In the San Fernando Valley, William Mulholland would declare of the water in his famously short speech, “There it is, take it.” In Exposition Park, U.S. Senator John D. Works dedicated the site of a fountain that would occupy the center of a sunken garden as a commemoration of that aqueduct. As Senator Works left the platform, a jet of water shot up 30 feet.

The history, science and art collection of the Museum gradually outgrew the capacity of the 1913 Building, and the original structure was expanded. In 1963, the Art Department relocated to its own museum in Hancock Park (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art). At that time, the Exposition Park facility became the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM). NHM was joined by other major cultural facilities in the park: the Memorial Coliseum, Sports Arena, Swimming Stadium, California Science Center, California African American Museum, and the largest municipal-owned rose garden in the nation. 

Renovation and Preservation

After more than two years of renovation and architectural preservation, the 1913 Building re-opened in the spring of 2009. In addition to a seismic retrofit, the early phase of construction also focused on the restoration of the brilliantly colored stained glass skylight at the apex of the Rotunda. This exacting work was carried out by David Judson, grandson of the skylight’s designer, Walter Horace Judson. Under David’s direction, the ornate and elegant stained glass was cleaned, repaired and strengthened, bringing it back to its full glory.

Using extensive data from NHM’s own archives — including historic drawings, photos and documents — the project team uncovered the original design, layout and construction methods of the original building and its subsequent 1920s additions in order to restore the building, while modernizing it inside and out. The 1913 Building’s first exhibition, Age of Mammals, debuted in 2010, followed by the Dinosaur Hall in July, 2011.


The museum is great for 7th grade teachers and high school earth science teachers because of all the features for the geologic time scale and fossil evidence for the fossil record.

High school earth science teachers, and 6th grade teachers could use the Gem Room for its numerous examples of the rock features from ingnious, and metemorphic rocks and sedementatry rocks to works with teaching the rock cycle.

On the weekends, they have Critter Clubs for 3- to 5-year-olds, and Junior Scientists for 6- to 9-year-olds. In Curator's Cupboardevents, the staff brings out special items not usually on display.

Science Concepts Addressed

7th grade Standards addressed:


3. Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know both genetic variation and environmental factors are causes of evolution and diversity of organisms.

b. Students know the reasoning used by Charles Darwin in reaching his conclusion that natural selection is the mechanism of evolution.

c. Students know how independent lines of evidence from geology, fossils, and comparative anatomy provide the bases for the theory of evolution.

d. Students know how to construct a simple branching diagram to classify living groups of organisms by shared derived characteristics and how to expand the diagram to include fossil organisms.

e. Students know that extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient for its survival.

High School Biology/Life Science


8. Evolution is the result of genetic changes that occur in constantly changing environ­ ments. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know how natural selection determines the differential survival of groups of organisms.

b. Students know a great diversity of species increases the chance that at least some organisms survive major changes in the environment.

c. Students know the effects of genetic drift on the diversity of organisms in a popu­ lation.

d. Students know reproductive or geographic isolation affects speciation. 

e.Students know how to analyze fossil evidence with regard to biological diversity,

episodic speciation, and mass extinction.

  • The Dinosaur Hall is one of the most extraordinary dinosaur exhibits in the world, and the premier dinosaur experience in the western United States. Inside are more than 300 real fossils, and 20 complete dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures.  One of the great things about the Dinosaur Hall is how close the design lets you get to the fossils! Look a Triceratops in the eye, or walk under the neck of a 68-foot Mamenchisaurus that’s longer than a city bus!  All 20 of the complete dinosaur and sea creature mounts have either never been on display before, or have been re-posed according to the latest research. 
  • The Gem and Mineral Hall contains one of the largest exhibits of all-natural gold in the world, featuring over 300 lbs total weight in gold, displayed in many of its most surprising forms.
  • The bug room is great for entomology and classification explorations.
  • The Fin Whale passage is a great display of a whale skeleton that you walk under and feel the scope of the size of this massive creature.

Science Concepts:
  • Geologic Time Scale: various exhibits of skeletal bones found with explanations of where found in layers.
  • Rock Cycle: the metamorphic, sedimentary and igneous rock found throughout the world.

Study Guide

Natural History Museum

Study Guide


TASKS at the Museum

1.  Write down 3 different types of exhibits in the museum:




2. Ask someone at the front desk when the museum was first built: year ______


3. Find the dinosaur dig room and explain the current work done by real paleontologists:




1. How many steps are there into the front of the museum? ______ steps


2. What banner is in the entrance of the lobby?


3. What is hanging from the ceiling in the “Fin Passage”?


4. What is hanging on the walls of the circular area of the museum?


5. Why does the Geologic Time Scale exhibit spiral (go in a circle)?


6. What is the creepiest bug in the insect room?


7.   What is the largest spider you could find?


8. In the Shell Room, how heavy is the Giant Clam?  _______km, or ________ lbs.


9. In the Gem Room, what is the orange gem from the Hercules Dike, found in 1987? ______________________


10.  What is your favorite Gem?   __________________

        Draw 3 different gems here:




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1. Create a powerpoint with pictures taken at the museum (with student cell phones) explaining the sequence of the fossil record in the Geologic Time Scale room.



2.  Pick 3 different fossils and list them in order of their geologic age.



3. Compare a fossil from two different time periods and explain how they are similar, and how they are different.




For additional information:

Laura Silverman,
Dec 15, 2011, 11:40 PM