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New York

Obscura Society NY: The Wildlife Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History

a talk and tour on the history and making of the captivating nature scenes

Wildlife dioramas first appeared in science museums in the 1800s. In a time when photography was newly invented and travel much more limited, they allowed viewers a detailed glimpse into wild spaces of the natural world that they would likely never be able to visit themselves. Each diorama at the American Museum of Natural History re-creates a real nature scene based on the observations of early 20th-century naturalists in the field and the on-site sketches and photographs of the artists who accompanied them. The dioramas feature taxidermy specimens, three-dimensional foreground elements that add to the scene such as indigenous plants, and a curved background painting that gives the illusion of space and distance.

Join us for a talk and tour on the history and making of the museum's dioramas with museum artist and diorama expert Tom Doncourt. Trained by a lineage of diorama builders and artists that traces back to Carl Akeley, the originator of the modern diorama building methods, Tom has worked to build new exhibits, sculpt models, and maintain the classic diorama halls for more than 20 years. You'll discover the unique history and and explore the development of the craft through this rare expert perspective into one of New York City's most celebrated museums.


Sunday, March 27th 11am - 1pm

Sanford Hall of North American Birds, American Museum of Natural History



-Your ticket is for the talk ONLY; it does not include admission to the museum. Please purchase admission to the museum separately (online for full price or in person, pay what you wish) and meet us inside the museum.

-We will meet INSIDE the museum, on the third floor, where the Sanford Hall of North American Birds meets the Primates. 

-We will be walking quite a bit inside the museum, so wear comfortable shoes.

Questions? Email