Help Us Restore the Drama of the Diorama

Each of the 37 incredible dioramas on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences is a valuable tool to engage our visitors and spark a lasting connection to the natural world.  

Maybe you remember excitedly exploring our galleries as part of a school field trip or watching as your toddler approached the grizzly bears with an astonished expression. Have you experienced awe standing before the towering moose or locking eyes with the menacing tiger? Bob Peck, senior fellow of the Academy, was so captivated by the moose diorama during a childhood field trip that he failed to notice his classmates and teachers were leaving the museum. This experience sparked a passion for the natural sciences that has lasted a lifetime. 

You can help us bring these incredible artistic science stories to life with a contribution to the Academy’s Diorama Renovation Project.  

Renovating the Academy’s dioramas will result in strengthened relevance and a more compelling and cohesive narrative. But it takes many resources to restore the drama of the diorama. Conservators, artists, taxidermists, Academy scientists and other experts totally dismantle the dioramas to rehabilitate every inch of the beautiful animals, plants and paintings and assess every aspect of the habitat for accuracy. 

In 2018, two of the oldest dioramas, the Takin and Gorilla dioramas, were totally renovated in a monthslong project, and museum guests were able to watch the process unfold during their visits. New lighting and digital kiosks were installed, peels and cracks were repaired, layers of dust were removed, curled leaves were replaced, and, in a few instances, errors were corrected. 

Academy entomologists determined the original species of swallowtail butterfly in the Gorilla diorama did not live in that region of Central African Republic. During the renovation, it was replaced with an exquisitely detailed model of an African giant swallowtail, Papilio antimachus.  

Dioramas bring awareness of the fragility of nature to hundreds of thousands of people every year. The intense research and documentation that goes into them enables researchers to track changes in biodiversity and habitat. The dioramas also illuminate current Academy science and inspire our visitors to be stewards of the earth and all living things. 

Please join us in our commitment to renovate and enhance the beauty and accuracy of each diorama and tell their stories in fresh and surprising ways. 

When you make a gift to the Diorama Renovation Project before Dec. 31, you’ll help us unlock generous matching funds from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Your contribution will help us receive $125,000 to support the renovation of the Wild Yak diorama in Asia Hall. 

In addition to helping us earn the matching funds, with your donation of $35 or more, you’ll be invited to an exclusive event at the Academy of Natural Sciences on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. You’ll explore the 100-year history behind the dioramas with a peek into the Academy Archives, discover fascinating secrets about these windows into nature, experience the artistry required in diorama-making, challenge your own creativity with diorama sketching and chat with scientists who use the dioramas for curriculum and research. 

Please consider donating to renovate the Academy’s dioramas to accurately and artfully bring our mission to life. 

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By Katie Marquardt, Manager of Membership and Appeals

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