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The Kid Should See This

Making ‘snow’ and shadows look real in AMNH dioramas

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How are museum dioramas kept in top shape for viewings? These American Museum of Natural History videos from 2012 share how curators and artists keep nature, specifically snow, looking fresh and realistic. It’s all about the layers. From Replacing “Snow” in the Dioramas:

Cotton batting used for snow in several dioramas had yellowed significantly over the years. Museum artist Joianne Bittle takes us inside the lynx diorama where the entire foreground was replaced. To achieve a realistic windblown appearance, the team used polyester batting covered with layers of ceramic-fiber blanket, topped with chopped polyethylene foam and a sprinkling of glass flakes to emulate freshly fallen snow.

snow in the diorama

After new, energy-efficient lights were installed, museum artist Stephen C. Quinn altered the slight color variations of the crushed marble dust “snow” to better represent the moon shadows in the Wolf Diorama. Watch a video of his process below: 

completed snow shadows
mixing "snow"

Previously in the series: Building a True-to-Life Butterfly for a Habitat Diorama.

Plus, related restoration and behind-the-scenes videos from some of our favorite museums in the TKSST archives:
• Microscopically reweaving a 1907 painting
Preparing Pilcher’s Hawk to fly again
• Making aloe plants for the hyena diorama at The Field Museum
• How the V&A recreated an 18th-century Mechanical Theatre

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