Why Improve Dioramas?

Let’s face it … the Academy’s dioramas are old. What makes them relevant to us today? And why should we clean and renovate them to make them feel fresh again?

Dioramas take us back in time, to an era before dramatic climate change and before human interference altered these areas. Since the dioramas provide a snapshot of a specific place at a certain point in time, we can compare those areas today to the scenes depicted in the dioramas to find out what has changed over the past nearly 100 years. But unless they are in tip-top shape, dioramas may present an imperfect picture of those long-ago scenes.

Over time, dioramas get dusty, and the materials in them can deteriorate. For example, in our Gorilla diorama, you’ll see that the skin of the gorillas has faded from light and humidity. The vegetation looks dusty–not at all like the bright, fresh and damp rain forest in which this diorama was collected. Conservators will fix the skin of the gorillas and clean the leaves and plants around them so that the scene feels even more realistic than it does now.

Gorilla diorama at the Academy of Natural Sciences

Visit the museum today and you may be able to catch some of the work taking place! On Tuesdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., a staff member will be on hand to show you specimens that could appear in a diorama. You can ask questions about the cleaning and renovation work taking place, learn about the workers’ protective gear and get a better understanding of the history of dioramas at the Academy! Learn more about this project at ansp.org.

Video by John Hutelmeyer

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