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Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History Hardcover – April 1, 2006
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This book is specifically about the dioramas of one museum, but in telling how they were constructed - taxidermy, foreground, and background painting - it is enlightening to anyone who loves natural history museums in general. There are color photos of the dioramas today, and black-and-whites of the artists working on various stages of their development decades ago. The step-by-step pictures of how a huge elephant mount is put together are nothing short of fascinating. Then, in addition, there are behind the scenes stories about how each diorama came together, and some hair-raising tales of specimen collecting in Africa.
If I have a complaint, it is this: the author has written the text as if only addressing fellow New Yorkers, assuming his readers have already been to this museum and seen these dioramas in person. "Think back to your memories of visits to the grand diorama galleries of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City." I can't help but feel a bit excluded, having never been there, although I am perfectly able to appreciate the exhibits based on the museums I have had the pleasure to visit. Perhaps he underestimated the broader appeal this book would have, but at any rate he unknowingly sparks a desire in the rest of us to try to get there someday!
What a marvelous book.
The Dioramas have very specific and often fascinating histories of their own, and this wonderful book describes not only the contents but the incredible ways they were assembled and built. Details abound. How did the artists blend the foreground -- often dirt and stones from the original site -- seamlessly into the painted background? How did they arrange the lighting so that the shadows are natural but the animals and plants are beautifully lit?
A year ago, I attended a lecture by Ross D. E. MacPhee, a curator in the Mammalogy Department and supervising curator of the restoration of the Hall of North American Mammals. It was absolutely amazing the incredible detail that he and his team of employees and volunteers employ in restoring the exhibits. The bison never looked more beautiful!
This book is a perfect companion to at least two other fabulous books about the Museum and its collections:
Dinosaurs in the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History -- two main sections: collecting expeditions, including adventures in creating the 28 extraordinary dioramas in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals, recreated from paintings, photographs, data, and specimens collected in the field by the explorer and taxidermist Carl Akeley, his wife and his team on expeditions in the 1920s; and
a second set of journeys through specific areas of the museum, all beautifully reported by Douglas J. Preston.
...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautiful and interesting. A great way to find out about the adventurers who collected the animals and the artists who constructed the dioramas in the Museum. Read morePublished 5 days ago by sniff
It is a beautiful book and makes a wonderful gift for natural history lovers.Published 10 months ago by Laura Howard
My son loved this book. Lots of great information about the museum and dioramas.Published 10 months ago by Catherine Grochowski
I grew up with these Dioramas. My father worked in The Museum of Natural History. I've long been an admirer of the landscapes that are behind the animals. They are exquisite.Published 14 months ago by A.L. DuBois
A wonderful overview of the amazing dioramas at the Museum of Natural History. I love Matthew Kalmenoff's work in particular.Published 23 months ago by Linda S
I barely looked up from this book once I received it. The stories behind the dioramas are out of this world, and nothing like you would expect. Read morePublished on May 14, 2014 by Victoria
Beautiful photos the capture the dream-like quality of the diorama. Although the intent is mostly in the realm of natural science, the effect is one of marvelous illusionism and... Read morePublished on September 9, 2013 by Don Lagerberg