Artists' Techniques Rendered Habitat Dioramas Mesmerizingly Real

On Exhibit posts

The dioramas in the Jill and Lewis Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals have always been splendid, but after more than a year of painstaking restoration, they look better than ever. A multi-video series documents their renovation. In these videos, Museum artists Stephen C. Quinn and Joianne Bittle Knight describe how the three-dimensional foregrounds and two-dimensional background paintings of the dioramas were originally created.

American Badger

Is it real—or isn't it? In the three-dimensional foregrounds of the Museum's dioramas, some plants and grasses are real, and some aren't. (Some of real ones have been spray-painted for added color.) Can you spot the difference as you roam the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals

Nearly every background painting in the Museum's North American Mammals dioramas depicts an actual place—not an imagined scene.

To gather source material, artists first visited the locale, photographing and painting the site to bring the true colors of the wilderness back to Manhattan. Watch this video for footage from the 1940s of artists at work.

For more images of the hall’s celebrated dioramas, behind-the-scenes videos, archival photos, and more, download the official app, for iOS or Android.

To watch the full video series, visit