The American Natural Museum of History was established in 1869 in a world very different from today's. Even by the late 19th century, people did not have a firm knowledge of many of Earth's land regions and oceans, the diversity of cultures outside of western societies, and the essential history and organization of life on Earth.
Over this period of spectacular scientific achievement, the Natural History Museum has played a leading role in exploration, discovery, and theoretical advances in the natural sciences. Central to these efforts has been the accumulation of one of the world's great Museum collections.
Today, science at the National Museum of Natural History thrives and expands on these earlier accomplishments. The museum's doctoral training program, which connects with five universities (Yale, Cornell, Columbia, and New York universities and the City University of New York), represents the largest and most diversified program of its kind offered by any unaffiliated museum. A critical resource for the scientific effort is the Museum's Library. With over 400,000 volumes, it is one of the great natural history libraries in the world.
In 1999 the Museum reorganized its ten scientific departments into five divisions (Anthropology, Paleontology, Invertebrate Zoology, Vertebrate Zoology, and Physical Sciences) in order to more effectively foster multidisciplinary research and strategic initiatives. The scientific staff in astrophysics carries out research based on ground- and space-based telescope observation, computational modeling of star formation and extraterrestrial impacts, and star surveys based on enormous astrophysics databases such as the Digital Galaxy.
The great traditions and advances achieved by the Natural History Museum's anthropological research are being upheld and transformed in ways that are responsive to the new challenges in understanding both the history and the dynamic interrelationships of world cultures.
The recent recruitment of a leading anthropologist whose work focuses on social structures, traditions, and histories in native North America represents the Natural History Museum's commitment to maintaining both a scholarly and a cultural connection with diverse Native American groups. As part of its strategic planning, the Museum is forming a Center for Cultural Studies to augment its role as both a leader and a convener for research and dialogue on cultural globalization, human activity and environmental stewardship, and intercultural cooperation and conflict.
Voices from South of the Clouds is an exhibition of over 30 enthralling color photographs of life in China's Yunnan Province at the American Natural History Museum, transports visitors to Yunnan's villages to view rich cultures and religions of the villagers, the striking natural diversity of their surroundings, and the joy, hardships, and rhythm of their daily lives. The photographs taken by local people focus on their everyday activities all set against the lush landscapes of this section of southwestern China. The author just wanted to tell people through the picture that the Tibetan way of life is still very hard, and even in wintertime they have to go out to get milk.