Your Last Chance to See?
Natural History Dioramas are a favoured location for museum school visits among students and teachers alike. They can provide locations to consider scientific and geographic subjects such as habitat, camouflage, predator prey relations and the beginnings of taxonomy. Across other disciplines they are rich locations for creativity, enhancing artistic skills and storytelling. Exploring the boundaries of what can be learnt or taught in these spaces has seen interesting developments in mathematics and physics to the surprise and delight of teachers looking to broaden the scope and value of a museum visit. Changing the conversations that take place in front of dioramas can be a challenge as the dioramas themselves present a powerful and dramatic presentation of ideas and stories caught up in the period in which they were designed. Projections of cultural values are visible in the presentation of nuclear families, squabbling scavengers and hierarchy and status through the physical location of specimens all provide supporting elements for interpretation. This chapter explores how a new intervention in a series of early twentieth century dioramas enabled a different way of relating with the exhibition. Often new interpretation forms a layer provided alongside the diorama through physical means such as interpretation panels, school worksheets, or through led sessions such as dialogue performance or presentation. The intervention undertaken at the Powell-Cotton museum in 2014 was within the diorama, with the specific objective of creating a new and specific way of relating to the dioramas: The environmental changes that are contributing to the current loss of mammals identified through the IUCN Redlist.
KeywordsDiorama Exhibition Extinction Learning Habitat Intervention Redlist
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