The Science of a Diorama

To get a further grasp on habitat dioramas, I read Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History (Abrams, 2006) by Stephen Christopher Quinn.

Windows on Nature
Image from Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History.

As I mentioned before, Louis Daguerre (famous for the daguerreotype process of photography) invented the diorama in 1822. Since then, museums have been using the technique of combining two and three dimensional elements to create “virtual realities.”

To create this effect, there are three main components to the classical habitat dioramas –

  1. the taxidermy specimens
  2. the foreground which includes all three-dimensional elements
  3. curved background painting

All these combined creates the illusion of distance and offer a window into an environment inhabited by wild animals. Check out a video featuring Stephen Christopher Quinn speaking about the history of the habitat dioramas here.

The Science of a Diorama

New project – Habitat

Grand Rapids Public Museum Watercolor by Roger Allen, Architect
Grand Rapids Public Museum Watercolor by Roger Allen, Architect.

I am very excited about a new and very different project that I am creating with thanks to Paul Amenta and Tom Clinton of SiTE:LAB in Grand Rapids, MI for the invitation to do a site-specific installation.

Much like last year, SiTE:LAB has been given access to an abandoned building in Grand Rapids with the intent to fill the building with artworks from about 20 different artists from all over the country and the world. This year, the building is the historic Grand Rapids Public Museum built in the late 1930s.

Spire Scale Model as Habitat
Reference for Habitat.

My piece, Habitat, will encompass the Mammal Hall which houses over 20 dioramas of taxidermied animals in their respective habitats. Within each diorama, I will create an architectural intervention, exploring what happens when a foreign object intrudes these fabricated “virtual” spaces first created by Louis Daguerre in 1822.

New project – Habitat