After a decade-long transformation, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA) is a unique indoor-outdoor destination where history, science, and science intersect. The museum's foundation is one of the world's most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history — from meteorites 4.5 million years old to new species discovered every year by NHMLA scientists. In immersive visitor experiences, including Age of Mammals and the Dinosaur Hall, visitors are awed by extraordinary specimens but can also explore these specimens’ stories (how scientists discover, collect, and research them). In Becoming Los Angeles, this “how we know what we know” approach continues: The exhibition explores how L.A. has changed over time, and the ways people adapted to, and altered, the Southern California landscape. But in addition to this exploration of the past, NHMLA also investigates the present, in permanent spaces including the outdoor 3½-acre Nature Gardens and indoor Nature Lab, and special exhibits including Tattoo and The Story of P:22: L.A.'s Most Famous Feline. The unifying theme, in all of these experiences, is the interplay of nature and culture, and change over time.
The asphalt seeps at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum represent the only active urban Ice Age excavation site in the world. Outside, all year long, visitors can watch paleontological excavators carefully extract fossils of animals trapped in the seeps over the past 50,000 plus years ago in both Project 23 and Pit 91. The mid-century Observation Pit, the first museum in Hancock Park, was refurbished and reopened for “Excavator Tours.” Inside, visitors see the next step of the paleontology process, as scientists and volunteers clean, repair, and identify fossils in the transparent Fossil Lab. The museum displays the final result: extraordinary specimens of saber-toothed cats, mammoths, dire wolves, and mastodons, as well as fossilized remains of microscopic plant remains, insects, and reptiles.
Silent film star William S. Hart purchased ranch property in Newhall, north of Los Angeles, in 1921. He built a 22-room mansion and filled it with Western art, Native American artifacts, and early Hollywood memorabilia. Hart bequeathed the entire estate to Los Angeles County for the enjoyment of the public at no charge. Tours and programs such as silent movie screenings take place frequently at the park and William S. Hart Museum. Among the ranch’s permanent residents is an assortment of animals, including a small herd of bison, a gift from the Walt Disney Studios in 1962.