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Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History Paperback – November 15, 1993

4.5 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

New York's American Museum of Natural History, one of the outstanding science museums in the world, contains an extraordinary collection of objects: dinosaur skeletons, human mummies, tiny beetles, birds of paradise, and massive totem poles. Only a tiny fraction of the millions of catalogued specimens is on public view, and Douglas, with a series of judicious choices, takes us on a tour of the great labyrinth of storerooms and vaults that houses the bulk of the collection. Of equal interest are the people who built up and continue to maintain this extraordinary collection. This is a delightful book filled with fascinating stories, anecdotes, and personalities. Highly recommended. Walter P. Coombs, Jr., Biology Dept., Western New Engalnd Coll., Springfield, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A rare treat...utterly wonderful to museum buffs.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Conveys the feeling of excitement and unflagging curiosity of those working behind the scenes to add to mankind's knowledge of the natural world.” ―Lorin Nevling, Jr., Director Emeritus, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago

Dinosaurs in the Attic is not just chronicle, or even history-it is literature, and a damn good read!” ―Charles R. Crumly, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

“The raucous and heroic history of one of America's best-loved museums...a beguiling book.” ―Chicago Tribune

“Preston writes...with breezy wit and insight.” ―Boston Globe

“A delightful book filled with fascinating stories, anecdotes, and personalities.” ―Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reissue edition (November 15, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312104561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312104566
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
More than a book about a museum, Dinosaurs in the Attic is a survey of the last two centuries' at times predatory and rapacious drive to collect. I read this book years ago, and am still recommending it to people as one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I've ever read. The story telling is marvelous and the insights about the museum fascinating.
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You wouldn't think of museums as providing the stuff for comedians, but I can see not enough people know about what actually goes on in these collosal monuments to human curiosity!
I came to this book by way of mystery writers (Preston and Child--Relic and Fairchild---The Bone Vault). So thanks guys for recommending this nonfiction read! Almost as quickly read as my mysteries.
The need for so many people to collect items, animals and even humans (would someone please stomp on Admiral Peary's grave for a while)! Geez. You wouldn't think people would be so obtuse as to not realize that living, breathing human beings do not belong in museums as specimens of a tribe or culture we do not know. But obviously the wealthy who often did the collecting, or those 'explorers' who put fame and glory above compassion had a problem with understanding basic human rights. And yes, if tribes ask for their ancestors back, the bones should be returned and buried. How would we all feel if someone went and dug up our grandparents and put their skeletons on display without concern for our need to respect them? You don't see museum guys going to dig up white American or English cemetary plots, do you?
Okay, off the soapbox. A fun read, well-written, well-researched. Preston went on to write several books using the museums as a somewhat creepy place, and frankly after reading this and other books, I don't think I'd want to be locked in the American Museum of Natural History. Pretty sure I'd freak out...too much past with too many ghosts attached to it. Besides, this place sounds like a mausoleum.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dinosaurs in the Attic is a delightful, informative book containing wonderful stories about the people, animals, and fossils in the American Museum of Natural History. The book offers accounts ranging from overseas expeditions sponsored by the museum to how the bones of P. T. Barnum's Jumbo the Elephant came into the museum's possession. This is a great book diminished only by the many, many typographical errors that pepper almost every page. It's a shame that the publishers didn't invest a few more hours in editing the text. Other than that, this is a very entertaining book written by Douglas Preston who once worked at the AMNH and went on to co-author the Pendergast series of novels with Lincoln Child.
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Preston is a wonderful writer, and this early book set a high standard that he continues to meet.

My companion is training to be an explainer at the American Museum of Natural History, and this book is one that her instructor strongly suggests that all of the candidates read. That alone, is a strong recommendation to read this account of the many people who made this amazing collection.

It is not a formal history of the museum, but rather a number of little essays (stories Preston calls them) on various interesting moments in that history.

Some reviewers note many typos, but the currently available printing -- mine is number 13 -- have no such problems -- as a former proofreader I would notice.

An excursion, the perfect description of the pleasures here.

An excellent coffee table version of many of the same stories, and many more, with a great wealth of excellent photographs, is American Museum of Natural History: 125 Years of Expedition and Discovery. The museum has published many superb books, but none better than this one -- the highest possible praise I can offer people that love museums of all sorts.

Robert C. Ross
September 2015
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By A Customer on July 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Until I read this history of the American Museum of Natural History and the stories of its great collections, I had little desire to visit NYC. While I thought "Relic" (the book AND the film) was a piece of junk, this book definitely made me travel to New York JUST to see the items described in this book. This was the first account I read of the tales of rival dinosaur hunters Marsh and Cope (now there is a film story). The hundreds of anecdotes such as the bone stripping beetles made it a fascinating read. I recommend it to anyone interested in the story of the finest collection of natural history artifacts on earth.
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Douglas Preston is simply a marvelous writer!! He wrote this book in the 1980's and his style captures you and keeps you - at that early stage of his career. Mr. Preston's love of the museum is so evident and makes you want to learn more about the history involved in this amazing museum in NYC.
Dinosaurs in the Attic was fact filled, thought provoking, entertaining NONSTOP. This book is a treasure and I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys a great tale of adventure and history. It was so entertaining, even though it is nonfiction, Preston made me want to read more and THEN(unfortunately) it was over. Wanted it to go on and on.

What a great friend Douglas Preston is to the museum - great book to read before going to American Museum of Natural History.
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