How are natural history museum dioramas—scenes showing animals within their native habitats—created to last for years and years of viewings? In this behind-the-scenes video from Chicago’s Field Museum, Exhibitions Preparator Kate Ulschmid uses a real aloe plant leaf to create neoprene (synthetic rubber) ones that can be glued and painted to look real.

The crafted plants are replicas of ones seen in expedition photos from 1896 when Carl Akeley collected four striped hyenas from their Somali habitat. Akeley, a biologist, conservationist, nature photographer, and taxidermist, is famous for modernizing natural history museum displays.

Next: Building a True-to-Life Butterfly for a Habitat Diorama, Installing massive statues with engineering and care at the Met, and Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle Restoration at MSI Chicago.

See more videos about...