Home Culture Inside the Gilder Center: NYC’s New Nature Experience

Inside the Gilder Center: NYC’s New Nature Experience

by Lauren Alberti
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Calling all nature lovers! The long-awaited Gilder Center at The American Museum of Natural History in New York is open and worth the trip uptown. The Richard Gilder Center For Science, Education, and Innovation opened its doors to the public in May and has quickly become the newest must-see attraction in NYC. The building itself is a work of art, giving visitors the feeling of walking around a canyon-like structure. Inside, it holds an all-new, state-of-the-art exhibit that simply can’t be missed. Read on to learn about the new Gilder Center at the Museum of Natural History and why it’s worth checking out.

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The Space

It’s impossible to talk about the Gilder Center without first mentioning the architecture. It was designed by Studio Gang, led by Jeanne Gang, who was inspired by the way wind and water wears away at natural landscapes. The Gilder Center feels like walking through a canyon whose centuries-old weathered walls take imperfect shape. Still, it was thoughtfully laid out and creates 30 connections to the rest of the museum, which helps with the natural flow of circulation of visitors.

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What To See

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The new addition to the AMNH is home to some exciting new exhibits as well. Most notably, the Gilder Center provides access to the Insectarium, Vivarium, and Invisible Worlds immersive experience.


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Even the insect-hesitant will find something to be excited about in this insectarium, where guests can take a close look at both live bugs and lifelike representations of bugs and insects. Most noteworthy of the insectarium is the display of live leafcutter ants. Thousands of ants navigate a foraging area, up a transparent sky bridge that visitors can walk under, and through a fungus garden, all working together in a giant assembly line. Seeing how these tiny creatures work together is truly something to marvel at, and reminds us of the wonders of nature.

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There is also a giant model of a beehive — AKA the perfect photo op — that visitors can “enter” inside and watch honey bees working in the combs on video displays. The exhibit holds 18 live species and has digital interactive displays teaching the roles of insects in their ecosystems.


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Take a walk upstairs toward the Vivarium, which is filled with over 1,000 live butterflies from over 80 different species, roaming free. The space is filled with trees and plants for the butterflies to hide away in, and fresh fruit is laid out under magnifying glasses so visitors can get a close-up view of them feasting on the sugary treats. While some butterflies are bright and colorful, there are many that are harder to spot — camouflaged in natural colors and relaxing on tree branches. Pro tip: Stand still! You never know who may pay you a personal visit.

Invisible Worlds

This immersive experience is truly one of a kind. Guests enter the theater where the walls and floors are covered in projected video images telling a story of “invisible worlds,” including bacteria and ocean life. The floor is interactive as well, with lights following the movement of everyone’s feet, making guests really feel like they are inside the worlds being shown on screen. Keep an eye out for the giant blue whale — a nod to the iconic AMNH installation — that glows and swims around the entire theater.

Who Should Go?

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If you are wondering whether kids would be welcomed in the space, the answer is absolutely yes. Children are highly accounted for in these exhibits, and parents will be able to learn and play alongside them as they discover the secrets and magic of the natural world. What about a group of adult friends? Or a family with adults and children? Yes and yes. People of any age will find something to marvel at while visiting the Gilder Center, and it is sure to make any afternoon at the museum an exciting one.

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One of the best parts about the Gilder Center is that it so easily flows within the already-existing concept of the museum we all know and love from generations of school field trips. The center is not separate from the building. Each floor of the Gilder Center is connected to its adjacent floor of the museum, and visitors can easily pass through each floor, weaving in and out of the new and old exhibits as they please.

The American Museum of Natural History is open daily from 10AM to 5PM. Tickets can be purchased online, and reservations must be made for the Vivarium and Invisible Worlds. 

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