Behind The Scenes: How to Make a Diorama

early eocene display

The Early Eocene display case that launched this blog. (It was much less complete at the time and I was pretty much covered in paint. Ah, such fond memories.)

If you’ve ever looked at a museum diorama and wondered “how do they recreate an ancient environment?”, this blog is for you. My name’s Juliana, and I’m an artist working at the University of Wyoming Geological Museum. And this is the story behind our exhibit renovations. The real story started way back in 2012 (actually, I guess you could say it started in the early Eocene), but it was a recent conversation with a visitor that kicked off this blog.

The renovated museum opened its doors on January 12, 2013, but there is still plenty to be done, and if you come for a visit (which I hope you do!) you can see museum staff working away like busy bees to build new exhibits. I was painting a display case when a visitor asked if I was allowed to paint whatever I liked. “Not quite”, I said, and I explained the whole long process that involves research, conversations with professors, many iterations of illustrations, and a final selection of display methods. It was a fun discussion, but as it wound down, the visitor commented that if I hadn’t been there painting she never would have known about the various fields of research that deal with paleo-environments or any of the other behind-the-scenes stories. She was absolutely right, and since I can’t be in the museum 24/7, it seemed like a good idea to tell the story online, so that anyone can read about it whenever they get curious.

The rest of the posts in this series deal with the research methods we use, the design process, and how we transform a digital image into a full-on display. So read on, and enjoy!


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