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Exhibition Tools and Materials

Identifier: Mem 308

Scope and Contents

Since its inception in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History had exhibitions related to the natural world, human cultures, and the universe. The habitat dioramas are predominantly featured in the Museum, with the first appearing in the late 1800s. A combination of distinct methods and tools was used to create the background, foreground, and taxidermy specimens that compose these exhibits, which improved with the advancement of technology and new knowledge.

The exhibition tools and materials are objects used, aproximately from 1887 to the 1990s, for the building and upkeep of the exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History. Items associated with dioramas from the following halls were identified: the Akeley Hall of African Mammals, the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, the New York State Roosvelt Memorial, and the Darwin Hall.

These materials have been loosely grouped and described based on their nature and use. Their description may be further refined as more is learned about them.


  • Usage: circa 1887-1990s



18 Items : Objects found behind dioramas, painting and taxidermy tools.

Language of Materials



These materials were arranged in three series: Series I: Taxidermy, Series II: Diorama Background Production, and Series III: Ephemera Found Behind Dioramas.

Custodial History

Most of the objects were used and left behind by Museum preparators and background painters during the making and restauration of the dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History, between 1877 and the 1990s.The materials behind the Upper Nile River diorama were found during a conservation assessment survey conducted in 2003.For its part, the objects found behind dioramas in the in the New York State Roosevelt Memorial and the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals were transferred from the Nature Science Conservation team, a division of the Department of Exhibition, that did the hall restoration in 2012. The mayority was found by Conservator Bethany Palumbo in April and September of 2011. Finally, the taxidermy tools belonged to the old Taxidermy, Tannery and Osteological Preparation Department that occupied the third floor of section 17. Mammalogy maintained these areas long after that Department was closed. After being evicted in the late 1990s during the North Side Project, the area was cleared. During this clear-out, a collection of old tools was found in one of the storage cabinets. 

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of these materials was transferred from the Department of Exhibition of the American Museum of Natural History, except for the taxidermy tools which came from the Department of Mammalogy.


The dates shown for this grouping mainly represent the time period in which these objects were used or left behind by the Department of Exhibition.

The total number of individual objects is 122.The extent at the collection displays a lesser number due to the fact that it represents the 12 boxes the objects are housed in and the six ones that loose but wrapped.

Exhibition Tools and Materials, circa 1887-1990s
Camila Aguirre
March 20, 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420