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- Moving and Restoring Diorama Treasures
Moving and Restoring Diorama Treasures
The Canadian Museum of Nature's spectacular dioramas are three-dimensional, realistic recreations of wildlife habitats, and they've been a valuable part of the museum since the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The backdrops of eight dioramas were painted by Manitoba wildlife artist Clarence Tillenius, who also helped with their design. Over the years they've captivated thousands of admiring onlookers with their realism and fine detail. They're big too! The largest is almost 5 metres high and 8.5 metres long, and weighs more than 2 tonnes.
When these installations were first created, no one thought they would ever be moved. But decades later, renovations to the museum required that they be installed in the new Mammal Gallery on the other side of the building, beyond a vast atrium. Just how were these huge and heavy heritage pieces to be relocated?
Rebuilding these complex habitat recreations took a dedicated team of conservators, scientists, exhibition designers, taxidermists and artists. They documented the thousands of components of the 18 dioramas. They cleaned, reassembled and retouched everything from the background paintings to the flowers and leaves in the foregrounds.
The new Mammal Gallery boasts some attractive changes from its predecessor. The illusion of "being there" is enhanced by better sightlines to the dioramas, non-reflective windows and higher ceilings. More specimens have been added to better tell the story of mammal adaptation. Each diorama is now complemented by large-format touch-screen computers with supplemental, interactive content. There are more hands-on activities and new spaces in which to do them.
By saving the best from the past and improving the experience, we've refreshed the vitality of this historic part of the gallery. Future generations of visitors can marvel at the dioramas' artistry while learning about Canada's unique environments.
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