After the small incident today, the museum has reopened. Thank you for your cooperation.

Objects Tell Stories

In this activity, learn about why we have collections, look closely at our beautiful altar celebrating the stories of Los Angeles, and think about an object that could represent you and your story!

Why do we have collections?

At the Natural History Museum, we have a lot of stuff! Our collections include over 35 million different objects and specimens which have been carefully collected and preserved (or protected) by our scientists over the last 100 years.

Take a look at some objects from our collections below!

Drawer with fossils, hands holding one specimen

Fossils tell the story of ancient animals and ecosystems.

A drawer in the NHMLAC Dinosaur Institute collections.

 

Mineral specimen with lots of colored layers

Rocks help tell the story of how our planet formed and has changed over time.

Opal specimen from the NHMLAC Mineral Sciences collections.

Hand holding a marine worm

Our large collection of marine specimens tell us stories of weird and distant habitats.

Collections Manager, Leslie Harris, holds a polychaete specimen. 

 

Boxes of different pinned wasp specimens

Insect specimens tell stories about how nature is changing in our city.

These pinned insect specimens from the BioSCAN project are part of the NHMLAC Entomology collections.

intricate, decorative tortoise shell colored comb

Artifacts (objects made by people), provide evidence, or clues, about the people who used them.

This intricate tortoise shell comb is displayed in the Becoming Los Angeles exhibition.

 

 

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Fossils tell the story of ancient animals and ecosystems.

A drawer in the NHMLAC Dinosaur Institute collections.

 

Rocks help tell the story of how our planet formed and has changed over time.

Opal specimen from the NHMLAC Mineral Sciences collections.

Our large collection of marine specimens tell us stories of weird and distant habitats.

Collections Manager, Leslie Harris, holds a polychaete specimen. 

 

Insect specimens tell stories about how nature is changing in our city.

These pinned insect specimens from the BioSCAN project are part of the NHMLAC Entomology collections.

Artifacts (objects made by people), provide evidence, or clues, about the people who used them.

This intricate tortoise shell comb is displayed in the Becoming Los Angeles exhibition.

 

 

The objects in our collections give us clues about the history of life on Earth. Each one of these objects is important because of the story it can tell. 

Many objects to tell many stories

image of newly reimagined exhibition

This beautiful collection of objects, displayed in the Museum’s Becoming Los Angeles exhibition is known as an altar, or ofrenda (the Spanish word for “offering”). This altar was created by a local artist, named Ofelia Esparza, to give us a picture of the many different stories that the city of Los Angeles has to tell.

Altars are used in many cultures and often serve as a center of worship or ritual. Esparza used the traditions of altar-making usually associated with the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead”, to make this altar.

Scroll through the images from the altar below. Do you see an object on the altar that is familiar or interesting to you? What do you notice about it?

section of an altar, collection of colorful objects

Look closely. What do you notice?

section of an altar, collection of colorful objects

Look closely. What do you notice?

section of an altar, collection of colorful objects

Look closely. What do you notice?

section of an altar, collection of colorful objects

Look closely. What do you notice?

section of an altar, collection of colorful objects

Look closely. What do you notice?

section of an altar, collection of colorful objects

Look closely. What do you notice?

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Look closely. What do you notice?

Look closely. What do you notice?

Look closely. What do you notice?

Look closely. What do you notice?

Look closely. What do you notice?

Look closely. What do you notice?

An object to tell your story

NHM’s collections tell many stories from the past, but we also continue to collect objects and tell stories of people and nature today.

If the museum was going to add an object to an exhibit (or to our collections) to help tell your story, what might that object be?

Think of an object that could tell a story about you or your family. The object could be something very special, or it could be an everyday item, that tells a story about your daily life! When you have an idea, use this worksheet (or a blank page!) to draw your special object as if it were on display in the museum. You can also write a short description next to it, saying what the object is and what it tells us about you and your story. At the Museum, this is what we call the “label copy”!

Interested in sharing your story with NHMLAC?