Caroline Burton: Way Finding
State I (of Being, NJSM), 2022
acrylic on canvas
72.5 x 61 in.
Courtesy of the artist
September 23, 2023 – March 31, 2024
Since 1984, the New Jersey Artist Series at the New Jersey State Museum has highlighted artists living and working in the state, and established the Museum’s crucial involvement with the world of contemporary art in New Jersey and beyond. We are pleased to announce that Caroline Burton will be the next artist featured in the exhibition series.
Caroline Burton is a process-driven artist, who draws on architectural forms, nature, and elements of chance for inspiration. Burton moves fluidly between painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture, often combining techniques in a practice that invites unconventional materials. This New Jersey Artist series exhibition will feature some of the artist’s most recent work, from 2020 to the present, including a series based on the Brutalist architecture of the State Museum building.
“History Beneath Our Feet: Archaeology of a Capital City,” focusing on the long history of human activity in Trenton, New Jersey as told through the lens of archaeology. The exhibition will be on view in the Museum’s main floor gallery. Visitors will discover the importance of archaeology to preserving the past and how excavations at ten locations within Trenton have helped inform our knowledge of human occupation and activities in the area, going back to prehistoric times. Stories that have been lost to time reemerge through artifacts on view, including pottery sherds that illuminated the existence of a long-forgotten local potter; thousands of artifacts that marked a previously unknown Indigenous people’s site; beads that may have belonged to enslaved people; a hollowed-out wooden log that served as Trenton’s water system in the 19th century, and more. Among the archaeological sites explored are the New Jersey State House, Petty’s Run, the Trent House and the Old Barracks Museum.
National Color with battle honors, 3rd Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers, 1861
Main Building - South Gallery, 1st floor
Get up close and personal with a rare collection of flags carried into battle by New Jersey’s Civil War soldiers and learn about our important role in the history of the War Between the States. New Jersey is one of the few states to actively display its Civil War flags, which were often returned to capital cities after the war.
The flags change periodically, allowing visitors to experience new examples from the collection.
On long-term view
Main Building - 2nd floor
The exhibition presents unique fossil stories that offer intriguing clues about our ever-changing planet, how life on Earth has evolved and adapted… or gone extinct. Step back 3.5 billion years to explore the geology of New Jersey, the oldest fossils from the state and the progression of life here. Learn about the evolution of turtles, fish, mammals and birds. Meet New Jersey’s own Dryptosaurus, the world’s first known carnivorous dinosaur, reconstructed and displayed for the first time ever! Marvel at a life-sized cast of New Jersey’s state dinosaur, Hadrosaurus foulkii, and a Mosasaurus maximus – a 50-foot marine reptile discovered in southern New Jersey. These two specimens are on long-term view thanks to support from NJM Insurance Group and the New Jersey State Museum Foundation. The exhibition concludes with a look at Ice Age animals and their modern day relatives.
IMAGE CREDIT: Charles Ward (1900-62)
Study for Mural (1934) - oil on board
NJ State Museum Collection
Gift of the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum
On Long-term View
Main Building - 2nd Floor Galleries
This installation highlights the diversity of voices and visions found in 19th through 21st century American art. The exhibition explores the sources of artists' inspiration and how these inspirations changed over time; how travel to Europe - and the art being made there - influenced American trends; the impact of immigrant artists bringing their own sensibilities to the US; and how world and US events (historical, political, cultural, etc.) impacted artists.
The exhibition allows visitors to see that art-making does not happen in a stylistic or ideological vacuum. Works created by academic, expressionist, folk, modernist and visionary artists will be shown together in a roughly chronological format to present the range, variety and complexity of America's fine art. In addition, important works by significant NJ artists will be highlighted within the context of American art.
The exhibition was made possible, in part, with support from the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum through the Lucille M. Paris Fund.
View of the Pretty Big Things gallery.
On Long-term View
Main Building - 3rd Floor
A 1,400-pound anvil made by Trenton's Fisher & Norris Eagle Anvil Works. An iron pot used to render whale blubber on the Jersey Shore. A hand-carved statue of the tallest American president. A "grandfather" clock made by the first African-American clockmaker. A grandiose Dutch immigrant wardrobe crafted in the 18th century.
What do these five historical artifacts have in common? They are all pretty big things. Using a non-traditional approach that eschews strict chronology, this educational exhibit consisting of compelling artifacts and hands-on activities for families takes visitors on an eclectic journey into unknown stories of New Jersey history using some of the "biggest" artifacts from the museum's Cultural History collection.
Do you know which American presidents have historical ties to our state? Can you name the symbols found on the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey? Did you ever wonder why New Jersey is called the Garden State? Do you know the difference between locally-made furniture types known as the linen press, the kast, and the chest-on-chest?
Can you name a New Jersey industry that was represented at the famous 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia? Come to the State Museum in order to learn the answers to these big questions of New Jersey history and to celebrate the rich historic heritage of our state.
Pretty Big Things: Stories of New Jersey History is the long-term core exhibition for the New Jersey State Museum's Cultural History Bureau, a diverse collection of historical artifacts documenting the history of everyday life in New Jersey from colonial times through the present day.
The exhibition was made possible, in part, with support from the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum through the Lucille M. Paris Fund.
IMAGE CREDIT: Delaware Woman's Blouse with Silver Brooches (c.1810-80)
Cotton, cotton thread, silver and dye
Collected by anthropologist Frank G. Speck
from the daughter of Chief Wooden Buffalo
Gift of Frank G. Speck
On Long-term View
Main Building - Lower Level Gallery
This exhibition offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of the Delaware Indians over a two hundred year time span. From the 1740s to the 1890s, many of New Jersey's Indians moved out of the state ahead of the ever-expanding non-Indian population. Artist and chronicler of American Indians, George Catlin (1796-1872), noted as early as 1832 that the Delaware were among the most relocated Indians in the United States. This exhibition tells the story of these migrations.
In the late 1800s and into the 1900s, the Indians that remained in New Jersey survived by adapting to a market economy. They developed handcraft industries which produced items desired by non-Indian settlers. The Indians produced baskets and other woven items such as mats and brooms, as well as carved wooden pieces such as mortars and shovels.
The descendents of the Delaware Indians who left New Jersey, as well as those who stayed, continue to follow and adapt their cultural and religious traditions, thus preserving them for future generations and sharing them with all other cultures.
The objects on view, which date from the late 1700s to the early 1900s, include a woman's blouse with silver brooches, splint baskets, a wooden shovel, a leather pipe bag decorated with glass beads, children's moccasins and a child's basket.
The exhibition was made possible through funding support provided by PSEG Foundation, with additional generous support provided by the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum.
IMAGE CREDIT: After Gustavus Hesselius Tish-Co-Han
A Delaware Chief (c.1837-1844)
Hand-colored lithograph from "The McKenney-Hall Portrait Gallery of American Indians"
Published by J.T. Bowen, Philadelphia
New Jersey State Museum Collection
On long-term view
Main Building - Lower Level
The exhibition provides a view of the seventeenth-century Dutch, Swedish and English competition to start colonies within what is today New Jersey and to develop a successful fur trade with the Indians who were living here.
The visitor is given the opportunity to view this exciting period of history through Native American and European objects produced during this fierce competition. The impact of the Europeans' arrival and eventual settlement on the lifestyle of the Indian inhabitants is also presented through early documents and historic maps and drawings. Artifacts on display include a rare dugout canoe along with examples of seventeenth-century Indian fishing equipment and domestic and personal items drawn from the Museum's extensive Native American archaeological collections. English- and Dutch-made seventeenth-century trade goods recovered from excavations at Indian sites include metal axes and hoes, glass beads, a rare brass kettle, gun parts, and white clay smoking pipes.
A selection of tools and ornaments the Indians made from broken brass kettles is also in the exhibition, along with a reconstruction of how wampum (small shell beads) was made by the Indians. Historic wampum beads are displayed and the importance of the beads in the fur trade is presented through historic accounts. The exhibition includes the earliest images of the Indians of the area drawn by European colonists and the earliest maps showing sites of Indian settlements in the seventeenth-century.
The exhibition was funded by the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum through a generous grant from the Estate of Paul Stillman, Wachovia Bank, Executor.
IMAGE CREDIT: Leaf-Shaped Biface Blade
Gloucester County, NJ
Gift of Rutgers University, Special Collections
On long-term view
Main Building - Lower Level
New Jersey's Original People: Interpreting the Archaeological Collection tells the story of New Jersey's native people and their cultural adaptation to an ever-changing climate. The term "Original People" is one translation of the word Lenni Lenape, the name of New Jersey's native peoples.
From shortly after the glaciers receded 13,000 years ago up to the 17th century, native people used the natural resources in their own environment, and later brought in from other areas, to help them survive. Their ingenuity and ability to adapt is demonstrated through the display and interpretation of artifacts from the Museum's extensive archaeological collections. Scholars recognize the Museum's holdings of more than 2.4 million archaeological objects as the definitive systematic research collection for the study of the prehistory of New Jersey and the Middle Atlantic region. Visitors will see the evolution of tools and other artifact types and uses, illustrating how native peoples adapted to environmental change. Through projection, hands-on and intuitive interactives, this exhibit highlights the many aspects of Native American life and speaks to the ingenuity of New Jersey's "original people."
An adjacent gallery, "The Science of Archaeology," also provides visitors with an opportunity to encounter an "active" dig site. The "Science of Archaeology" gallery also serves as a classroom, orienting visitors on the science behind archaeological excavations and investigations. This installation explores how archaeologists, through the ongoing collection and analysis of artifacts, interpret the stories of prehistoric life in the Garden State to educate and inform current and future residents.
The exhibition was made possible through lead funding support provided by the PSEG Foundation, with additional generous support provided by the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum.
IMAGE CREDIT: JAR, (Before 1941) Pueblo
Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico
Gift of Dr. Lancelot Ely
On long-term view
City-side and Museum-side Galleries
Auditorium Galleries temporarily closed.
The New Jersey State Museum is one of the oldest state museums in the nation, and was the first of its kind to be established with education at the heart of its mission. In the beginning, the Museum’s focus was on natural history, but today, the Museum includes important collections in Natural History, as well as Archaeology & Ethnography, Cultural History and Fine Art. This exhibition offers visitors a glimpse into the diversity of the collections which number well over 2,000,000 specimens, artifacts and objects.
Today, the Museum’s remains committed to education through the research and preservation of its collections. The Museum continues to expand and now includes well over 2 million specimens, artifacts and objects. These treasures are held in trust for the people of New Jersey to learn about our history, celebrate our place in the world and inform our future.
On long-term view
Museum Auditorium - Alcove Gallery
Open Tuesday – Friday
In 2011, the New Jersey State Museum commemorated the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 with an exhibition exploring the impact of the terrorist attacks on the people of the Garden State.
New Jersey’s 9/11 Collection - On that fateful day, nearly 700 New Jerseyans - the second highest casualty toll after New York - perished at the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
In order to ensure the continued remembrance of this “Pearl Harbor moment” of our generation, the New Jersey State Museum’s collection of 9/11 artifacts was placed on long-term display.
Consisting of battered fragments of the World Trade Center, images of the relief and recovery efforts, and stories of remembrance and reflection at Ground Zero, the 9/11 Collection Gallery affords a place where future generations can understand and reflect on this turning point in world history and its impact on New Jersey.
February 3, 2024 - September 15, 2024
Experience New Jersey history through a recently discovered archive of photographic negatives that once belonged to a prolific, but long-forgotten, local photographer.
“Discovering Grant Castner” celebrates one New Jerseyan’s passion for photography - from the 1890s through the 1910s, and is curated from the State Museum’s extensive collection of the photographer’s original negatives.
In 2019, the New Jersey State Museum received a donation of more than 1,200 glass plate negatives. The plates preserve pinpoint moments of everyday life in New Jersey at the turn of the 20th century, snapshots of our collective past. They belonged to Grant Castner (1863-1941), an amateur photographer born in Belvidere (Warren County) who later lived and worked here in Trenton.
The 200 images featured in the exhibition reflect Caster’s artistic talent and illustrate numerous aspects of New Jersey history, from close-up portraits of family and friends to the marvels of turn-of-the-century transportation, to the flurry of excitement and activity at the famed Inter-state fair in Hamilton Township.
Further subjects include:
Visit this exhibition to discover more about the life and works of Grant Castner and experience the full breadth of his talent as it transports you back in time to the New Jersey of our ancestors.
FIRE AND ICE (1991)
oil and collage on canvas
Gift of the artist
On view through August 27, 2023
“Beyond the Tangible: Non-objective Abstraction from the Collection” is a new exhibition of 26 non-objective abstract works by 22 artists from the Fine Art collection. The exhibition can be seen in the Museum’s 2nd floor gallery and features works created by American artists since the late 1930s. “Beyond the Tangible” is on view through August 27, 2023.
New Jersey is home to a diverse and robust artistic community; the New Jersey Arts Annual exhibition highlights the work of visual artists and craftspeople from around the state. This year’s exhibition theme is “Reemergence.” Artists, like most New Jerseyans, are taking steps to reemerge into an altered landscape. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, political and ideological polarization, and a collective reckoning with systemic racism remain critical to achieving the country’s promise. One hundred twenty-seven works by 95 artists were selected for inclusion in the exhibition. The complete list of artists. The New Jersey Arts Annual: Reemergence is a project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the New Jersey State Museum. At the New Jersey State Museum, the exhibition is also supported by the New Jersey State Museum Foundation.
NJ Arts Annual Artist Talks: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNFj4CbXUFux_WZQUEi6JSA
Sharks and their relatives share a 400-million-year history and have a diverse family tree. They inhabit the world’s oceans, rivers and estuaries evoking fear and mystery. But much this fear comes from a lack of understanding about sharks and their habitats. This exhibition dispels some of the myths and misunderstandings about sharks and their relatives by exploring their biology, fossil record, conservation and cultural significance. Specimens and artifacts from the New Jersey State Museum collections will be on display to demonstrate the truly jaw-dropping world of sharks!
Ken Ramsay 1935-2008
Susan Taylor, as Model c.1970s
gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Susan Taylor
January 29, 2022 – May 22, 2022
The exhibition explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and contemporary contexts. Throughout the Western history of art and image-making, the relationship between beauty and art has become increasingly complex within contemporary art and popular culture. This touring exhibition was organized by the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, and curated by Deborah Willis, PhD, University Professor and Chair of the Department. At the New Jersey State Museum, the exhibition has been made possible by the Lucille M. Paris Fund of the New Jersey State Museum Foundation.
Jan. 4, 2020 – Mar. 6, 2022
They occupy our forests, fields, parks, beaches, farms, backyards and even our homes. Indeed, birds are everywhere. But many New Jerseyans remain largely unaware of the profound natural and cultural significance of these ubiquitous avian creatures.
This exhibition will bring together a wide assortment of artifacts and specimens to explore two concepts about our fine feathered friends – their status as an important ecological mainstay and their historical role as a design-inspiring force – or muse – for New Jersey artisans in the decorative arts.
A Virtual version of the exhibition can be view here: www.flickr.com/photos/njstatemuseum/collections/72157714167946541/
Find your feathered friends with this mini bird guide!
Soar into space in the New Jersey State Museum’s Planetarium! With our Ultra-High Resolution 8K projection system and our 140 spacious, specially-designed reclined seats, your experience is sure to be comfortable and out of this world! Our dynamic and knowledgeable planetarium presenters will take you on tours of New Jersey’s skies and beyond.
Public Show Times: Saturday and Sunday: 12:00, 1:00. 2:00 & 3:00 Tuesday – Friday: 2:30
Public shows are roughly 50 minutes total, with full-dome planetarium films preceded by live star talks presented by planetarium staff. Shows for our visitors 8 and younger are roughly 30 minutes long with no pre-show star talk.
The Public Show Schedule changes monthly and is listed in our Calendar of Events. Also see our Calendar of Events to find out about our special public programming!
Once a month, typically on the fourth Saturday of each month, Spanish language shows are available at 10 AM and 11 AM.
Ticket Information: Children 2 and under -------------------------Free Children 3 to 12 --------------------------------$5 Ages 13+ ------------------------------------------$10 Veterans/Seniors/Students --------------$9 Groups of 15 or more -----------------------$5 per person. Families First Card or eWIC Card ------Up to 4 Tickets Free
Advanced ticket sales are not available; box office opens 30 minutes before the first show
To schedule a school or community group visit to the Planetarium, call (609) 292-1382 or email email@example.com
Happy Birthday from the New Jersey State Museum!
Bring your child to the Planetarium for their birthday and receive a free gift! Just tell the box office when buying tickets and give them the birthday child’s first name. They will give your child the free gift and the Planetarium will announce the birthday before the show! If you call three or more business days in advance, the Planetarium will also add a banner to the dome to celebrate! To add the banner, contact William Murray at 609-826-3940 or William.firstname.lastname@example.org
Book a Private Show*
Experience our Ultra-High Resolution 8K projection system in an exclusive private show for you and your friends, family or community group. Reservations must be made three weeks in advance. Final head count and full payment is due two weeks in advance with no exceptions. Contact Reservations at (609) 292-1382 or email email@example.com.
Private shows includes:
We offer two options:
1. During regular Museum operation hours: $300 for up to 40 people and $5 per person for each additional person up to 140. These private shows are only available on these days and times:
2. After-hours for an additional fee: $500 for up to 40 people and $5 per person for each additional person up to 140. After-hours private shows are available on these days and times:
*Please note: This option is for one show only. This is not a space rental. If your group requires planning for a business event including food, presentation stage, sound system or other special considerations you must contact NJSM.firstname.lastname@example.org to secure a rental contract for use of space. Birthday parties cannot make private use of the public spaces in the building.
“Touch the Stars” dramatically showcases the robotic spacecraft used in the exploration of our solar system and the galaxy beyond. The film traces the path to space through the history of NASA’s probes, orbiters, and landers—from the heart of our solar system and the surface of its planets and moons to the grand tour of the Voyager spacecraft through the outer planets and beyond. Created with the cooperation of NASA and Lockheed Martin, and using the latest high definition imagery and scientific data, fulldome show “Touch the Stars” engages audiences through the use of real footage and 3-dimensional vistas, transporting us to planets and distant stars alongside these heroic robot explorers for an unforgettable voyage.
One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure begins on Sesame Street when Elmo’s friend, Hu Hu Zhu, visits from China. Big Bird, Elmo and Hu Hu Zhu take viewers on an exciting discovery of the Sun, Moon, and stars. They also learn about the Big Dipper and the North Star. Elmo and Hu Hu Zhu then take an imaginary trip to the Moon where they learn that the moon is a very different place from the Earth. They even pick the North Star as their friendship star to always remind them of their shared joy of looking up at the sky together.
: Áróra is an immersive full-dome show that transports audiences to Iceland to learn the story of the aurora, the northern and southern lights. Voyage through time and space to find out how auroras are caused by the Sun, how Earth’s auroras have siblings across the solar system, and how different cultures have explained this majestic and mysterious phenomenon.
Every star has a story. Some are as old as time, faint and almost forgotten. Others burn bright and end their lives in powerful explosions. New stars are created every day, born of vast clouds of gas and dust. Through every phase of their existence, stars release the energy that powers the Universe. Journey to the farthest reaches of our galaxy and experience both the awesome beauty and destructive power of STARS.
This collection encompasses over 2 million prehistoric and historic specimens from nearly 100 years of excavation and over 2,000 ethnographic objects. Archaeology specimens are recognized as the definitive systematic research collection for the study of New Jersey prehistory and one of the most important collections for regional study of northeastern North America.
Developed overwhelmingly through professional excavations by Museum staff and archaeologists from universities and consulting agencies, the collections provide data on the entire span of human occupation of New Jersey from prehistoric to historic 19th century.
The Museum's archaeology collection is the preferred repository for collections excavated within New Jersey by state and federal projects. The ethnographic collection consists of items brought back to New Jersey by residents who traveled as diplomats, military officers, missionaries, and enthusiastic tourists in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Most specimens represent the Delaware and other North American Indian groups.
The collection is particularly rich in examples of Native American textiles, bead, and hide work. It includes a small number of West African specimens, collected to interpret the New Jersey African-American past, and a small selection of Asian objects collected by New Jersey donors on business or pleasure trips during the late 1800s through the 1950s. The ethnographic collection also includes a significant collection of Alaskan Eskimo specimens.
The New Jersey State Museum collects, preserves and interprets objects that document the lives of people who lived in New Jersey from the 17th century to the present. The Cultural History Collection includes over 13,000 artifacts documenting New Jersey's cultural, economic, military, political, and social history, as well as aspects of its decorative arts.
Ranging from ceramics produced by Trenton potteries to flags carried into battle by New Jersey Civil War regiments to utilitarian artifacts reflecting the rich maritime and agricultural heritage of the Garden State, the Cultural History Collection is one of the largest material culture collections dealing with New Jersey history. Textiles, trade tools, furniture, and an array of artifacts documenting craft, work, play, community and family life are also represented in the collection.
Pretty Big Things: Stories of New Jersey History, an exhibition featuring aspects of the Cultural History collection is open in the third floor mezzanine gallery.
The State Museum has collected over 12,000 works of art including paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture and photographs, most acquired since 1965 when the Museum's mission was expanded to include fine art.
The collection has an American focus that highlights the work of New Jersey artists within the context of American art history. Also included are works that depict New Jersey scenes and events. The strengths of the Fine Art collection lie in works by the American modernists associated with Alfred Stieglitz, a significant collection of works by 19th through 21st-century African-American artists, American abstract artists of the 1930s and 1940s, contemporary American and New Jersey art, the complete graphic outputs of Ben Shahn and Jacob Landau, and works by the New Jersey Fellows associated with the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions/Rutgers University.
Visit American Perspectives: The Fine Art Collection is on view on the second floor. For additional information on this exhibition, visit American Perspectives under the What to See drop down menu on this website.
Assistant Curator of Fine Art – Sarah Vogelman – email@example.com
The Natural History Collection is comprised of approximately 250,000 specimens, which in addition to their scientific significance, also have historic and cultural significance. These collections developed from the holdings of the New Jersey Geological Survey that began systematic surveys of industrial mineralogy and paleontology in 1836. The collections are especially strong in industrial minerals and ores, paleontology (fossils), comparative osteology specimens (bone), modern shells, and a systematic ornithology (bird) study skin component. Additional smaller subcollections include entomology (pinned insects), mammal and reptile study skins, fluid-preserved fauna, a systematic mineral collection, taxidermy mounts and trophies, glass lantern slides, and historic field reports and photographs. Natural History also holds an extraordinary collection from the Ellisdale Dinosaur Site, including the first Cretaceous mammals (75 million years old) to be found in eastern North America.
The Collection is the repository for about 300 Type (earliest documented) specimens of Paleozoic and Mesozoic fossils, as well as a huge number of fossils documenting the Paleozoic strata that now form the little known phylum Conulariida and the earliest vertebrates known from the State (Silurian jawless fish). Minerals from the zinc-mining locality of Franklin-Sterling Hill, one of only two known sites in the world (the other is Langborn, Sweden) with the largest number of mineral species exhibiting fluorescent properties are well-represented, as are mine-specific specimens from New Jersey’s industrial iron mining past.
Raw and heat-tested clay samples from pits utilized by the ceramic industry are also well documented as are unconsolidated sand samples utilized by the glass industry. Specimens from beyond New Jersey are used for comparative purposes in exhibitions and educational programming, to augment the systematic collections, and for research purposes.
The Tradition of Field Investigations
From the time of the earliest collections of the State Museum, field investigations have been a strong emphasis, especially in Natural History. Within the past few years, field collecting has taken place throughout New Jersey, and also in comparative sites elsewhere in North America. State Museum paleontologists have also participated in investigations in other parts of the world, including China and Argentina.
The Discovery Den is a family engagement play space for children ages 0-8. Families are encouraged to explore the natural world together through books, pretend play, making art and scientific inquiry.
Discovery Den opened in 2015 thanks in part to the generous support from the PNC Foundation through the Grow UP Great program.
Discovery Den zones are created to appeal to different ages and stages. Infants to curious 2nd graders will find something to engage and delight. Caregivers are encouraged to use the activities to play and learn together.
Discovery Den is located on Level 2 in the Natural History Hall. Discovery Den is free to explore and is open during Museum hours.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all families we have posted these rules:
Local families are welcome to register for the Small Explorers program, taking place in the Discovery Den on the second Saturday of the month. This playgroup is an opportunity for you to explore the Museum with your child and connect with other families for support. Families are encouraged to sign up for a full year of sessions to build knowledge, skills and relationships. To learn more, contact Susan Buckley at Susan.Kozak-Buckley@sos.nj.gov
Children ages 3-8 explore and learn about the natural world with books, building sets, fossil exploration and puzzles. Take notes and draw specimens just as Natural Scientists do in the field. On select days and times there may be guided science activities available.
Continue the research at home by creating a collection of rocks, shells or leaves. Open your own exhibit!
Coloring develops both gross and fine motor skills and helps your child practice color recognition. Both adults and children benefit from sitting together and talking while you color, its relaxing! Bring home your art as a souvenir or leave it hanging on the wall so you can say it was featured on exhibit at the NJ State Museum!
Here you will find a mirror for exploring movement, floor pillows to help babies sit up, age appropriate toys with a natural history theme and wall activities for toddlers to explore.
Infants can cuddle with you in the gliders or crawl and explore. When you talk or read to an infant, including newborns, you are helping their brain develop the connections it needs to understand language. Regular reading teaches new words and increases attention span.
Pretend you are at the shore in New Jersey – Is it day or night? Who are you with? What sounds do you hear in this environment? Go fishing, identify and play with marine animals and tell stories by the fire.
What do you see at the campsite? Plants, animals or insects? Talk with your child about size, shape and color of the natural environment they imagine.
Put on a show! Children can learn about NJ wildlife throughout the Den and demonstrate that knowledge or use their imagination in their original play.
Through imaginative play children explore feelings and develop social and cognitive skills.
Who will you be today? Choose an animal or a prehistoric creature. Maybe you are a gardener, fossil hunter or even an astronaut!
Engage your kids by asking how that creature behaves or what that person does on the job. If the child doesn’t know, help them find the answer by exploring books, activities and objects.
Look for the Small Explorers gallery guides available throughout the Museum to help your family explore the galleries before or after your play time. These guides are designed for children ages 0-5 and include objects to find with related activities you can do at home.
Local families are welcome to register for the Small Explorers program, taking place in the Discovery Den on the second Saturday of the month. This playgroup is an opportunity for you to explore the Museum with your child and connect with other families for support. Families are encouraged to sign up for a full year of sessions to build knowledge, skills and relationships. The program is 45 minutes long and begins promptly. Sessions take place in-person at 9:45 am and 11:00 am in the Discovery Den, The program is FREE, but space is limited; advance registration is required. Contact Susan.Kozak-Buckley@sos.nj.gov to learn more and register.
NOTE: Registration requests must be received by 10:00 am the Friday before the event in order to allow time for staff to confirm space availability.
Join our mailing list to stay up to date with Small Explorers information about activities, videos, events, and announcements!
If you have any questions about the program, please contact Susan Buckley at Susan.Kozak-Buckley@sos.nj.gov.
Small Explorers videos can be viewed on the Museum’s YouTube page