The Newark Museum @ 110 Part V: The Natural Sciences

May 31, 2019 at 9:14 am Leave a comment

Dynamic Earth Introductory GalleryThe Natural Science Collection opened on the top floor of the Newark Public Library in 1904 before the Newark Museum Association was even founded. It was comprised of rocks and minerals collected, arranged and described by Dr. William S. Disbrow, a local pharmacist and general practitioner. Over the years, he added plant specimens for the study of systematic botany and economic botany. Because of Newark’s location on an estuary, he also collected zoological specimens relating to sea life, especially shells, which he also placed in the “science museum.” By the time of his death in 1922, the collection consisted of 74,000 specimens, and all of them were bequeathed to the Newark Museum. “Newark needs a science museum,” Dana wrote in 1905, “… a small, practical museum, made up chiefly of objects illustrating the geology, soil, fauna and flora of this vicinity …” Disbrow’s gift – not only of his collection but of his time, effort, and knowledge – helped establish this aspect of the museum’s overall composition.

1905 Dsibrow xxx

Shortly after the opening of the main building in March 1926, Dana and one of his chief collaborators, Louis Bamberger, the department store magnate, discussed the possibility of building a separate science museum with a planetarium at the back of the garden on Plane Street (now University Street). Unfortunately, Dana’s death and the Great Depression intervened. However, in 1953, thanks to the generosity of Leonard and Alice Dreyfuss, a planetarium with a state-of-the-arts Spitz projector was opened. Since then, the Dreyfuss Planetarium has become a spectacular interactive theater for learning about astronomy, space and planetary science.


It compliments a natural science collection that is featured on the third floor of the main building in an installation entitled Dynamic Earth: Revealing Nature’s Secrets. It offers an immersive interactive environment highlighting more than 400 specimens, illustrating over 4 billion years of the Earth’s formation, including the shifting of tectonic plates, the creation of biomes, such as the grasslands of Africa or the highlands of New Jersey, and the adaptation of plant and animal life to their environments. Thousands of visitors, including hundreds of schools groups, learn about geology, botany, and zoology.

Planetarium 1954

The remarkable history of the natural science collection is briefly recounted in the exhibition, Promoting Books and Objects: Empowering Newarkers, which is on view on the third floor of the Newark Public Library until August 31, 2019.

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William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

The Newark Museum @ 110 Part IV: Other Lands, Other Peoples The Newark Museum @ 110. Part VI: Education

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May 2019


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