The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, founded in 1913, is home to one of the country's most extensive collections of natural specimens and artifacts. The collection, which contains almost 35 million pieces, covers about 4.5 billion years of natural Earth history and is the largest such collection in the western United States. In addition to its own collection, the Natural History Museum also receives and displays items and artifacts that have been discovered at another local museum, the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits.
The museum contains artifacts from a variety of fields, including specimens from areas like entomology herpetology, botany, mineralogy, ornithology, and vertebrate paleontology. Despite the extent of the collection, visitors to the Natural History Museum still manage to flock to four displays in particular, including those dedicated to animal habitats, pre-Columbian cultures, insects, and dinosaurs. Children who visit the museum are particularly fond of exhibits like the Pavilion of Wings - a beautiful butterfly exhibit, the Spider Pavilion - dedicated to various types of arachnids, and the Bug Fair, where children and visitors alike can get hands-on with a variety of "creepy crawlers".
Externally, the museum is well known for two distinct features: its main building and a sculpture/statue that adorns the street side of the museum. The museum's main building consists of fitted marble walls and a unique domed and colonnaded rotunda reminiscent of early 19th century architecture. More recently, the museum added an amazing, life-sized sculpture of a Tyrranosaurus Rex battling with a Triceratops. The statue is clearly visible to anyone driving or walking by the side of the museum that faces Exposition Boulevard and has become a popular place for souvenir photographs.
Internally, the museum consists of three floors of permanent displays and exhibits. Visitors who enter are quickly greeted by two complete dinosaur skeletons, one of a T-rex and one of a Triceratops, both of which are located in the famed Grand Foyer which has itself also been filmed in several movies. Besides being a museum, the Natural History Museum is also one of the country's best centers for research into natural history. Projects that make up the museum's Research and Collections Department are currently conducting research into invertebrates, vertebrates, minerals, local California history, and Native American and Pre-Columbian anthropology.
Originally known as the Museum of History, Science, and Art, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County became its own individual museum dedicated to Earth's natural history when its artistic wing broke off to become the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or the LACMA. It was in fact the city of Los Angeles' first cultural center to be open exclusively to the public. The beauty and importance of the museum's collection and its architecture were recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, making sure that the museum, its work, and its collections will be preserved and protected for generations to come.