Making the Dioramas

How were the dioramas made? Are the animals real? Where did they come from?

Many of the Academy’s dioramas were created in the 1930s and 1940s. The Academy launched expeditions to faraway locations to find and collect animals that our staff wanted to share with the public. The animals that were brought back were prepared through the process of taxidermy.

The animals and plants in the dioramas appear in front of backdrop paintings that depict the exact locations where the dioramas were collected. The backdrops are curved so that they trick your eye into believing that they, too, are real. The items in the foregrounds, many of which were crafted by hand to imitate the real objects they represent, sometimes continue into the backdrop paintings and appear to echo off into the distance.

Takin diorama at the Academy of Natural SciencesThis spring, watch experts restore our Takin and Gorilla dioramas through large viewing windows into the temporary work spaces. On Tuesdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., a staff member will be working nearby to show you specimens that could appear in a diorama, as well as the specialized gear that the conservators and artists are wearing. Bring your curiosity and your questions!

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