In the Attic of the Museum

Some of my earliest memories of jaw-dropping murals and paintings of the natural world are of visiting the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History in NYC.  I always wanted to paint murals like that, although I never pursued it.

The Museum is currently refurbishing their Hall of Mammals, including all those beautiful dioramas that have inspired and enchanted so many of us. Last week we had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Mammal Department including the dioramas they are working on.  With the glass removed, the animals seemed ready to pounce.  The animals were getting their fur touched up, ears adjusted, noses re-glazed, and the plants were being being repainted in spots. We also went to the research offices and storage rooms where  hallways are lined with skeletons of every kind of mammal on earth, from a tiny leaping fairy-size mammal (that I forgot the name of) to giant skulls of elephants that lined an attic room.  I never realized how many species of animals there are.  I also never realized how many  artists work at the Museum.  Next time I'm bringing my sketchbook.

Above is a book jacket I just finished, and at left is a luscious new book about the making of the ANMH dioramas, called Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural Historyby Stephen Quinn, Senior Exhibition designer at AMNH. It's on my wish list!

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