The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County opened in Exposition Park, Los Angeles, California, the USA in 1913 as the Museum of History, Science, and Art. The moving force behind it was a museum association founded in 1910. Its distinctive main building, with fitted marble walls and domed and colonnaded rotunda is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum was divided in 1961 into the Los Angeles County Museum of History and Science and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). LACMA moved to new quarters on Wilshire Boulevard in 1965, and the Museum of History and Science was renamed the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Eventually, the museum renamed itself again, becoming the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
In July 2010 the museum reopened its seismically retrofitted renovated 1913 Rotunda along with the new Age of Mammals exhibition. Currently, the museum is in a new phase of development that will see its Dinosaur Hall opened in July 2011 and its history of California Under the Sun in late 2012. By that time the front of the building will be developed into 3.5 acres (14,000 m2) of teaching-learning gardens as the new North Plaza.
The museum is the largest in the western United States, and its collections include nearly 35 million specimens and artifacts and cover 4.5 billion years of history.
The museum has three floors of permanent exhibits. Among the most popular museum displays are those devoted to animal habitats, dinosaurs, pre-Columbian cultures, and the Ralph M. Parsons Discovery Center and Insect Zoo.
The museum has two satellites, the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits and the William S. Hart Park and Museum in Newhall, California.
The museum’s collections are strong in many fields, but the mineralogy and Pleistocene paleontology are the most esteemed, the latter thanks to the wealth of specimens collected from the famed La Brea Tar Pits. The museum has almost 30 million specimens representing marine zoology.
Over the years, the museum has built additions onto its original building. Originally dedicated when the Natural History Museum opened its doors in 1913, the Rotunda is one of the Museum’s most elegant and popular spaces. Lined with marble columns and crowned by a stained-glass dome, the room is also the home of the very first piece of public art funded by Los Angeles County, a Beaux-Arts statue by Julia Bracken Wendt entitled “Three Muses,” or History, Science and Art. This hall is among the most distinctive locales in Los Angeles and has often been used as a filming location.