Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island giant tortoise, was unveiled at the Museum this afternoon. He will be on public view for just over 3 months, through January 4, 2015. Museum scientists worked closely with taxidermy experts to preserve Lonesome George as he appeared in life.
SPOTTED SKUNK AND RINGTAIL (CACOMISTLE) - June at Sunset, New Mexico
In this diorama, the last rays of the June sun catch one face of the striking landform known as Shiprock. The remarkable handstand of the spotted skunk (left) is a warning to discourage the two curious ringtails (right) from getting any closer. If this pose doesn’t work, the skunk will release jets of foul-smelling musk from glands under its tail.
Ringtails also combine chemistry with defensive body language. Here, one ringtail has made its tail fur stand upright, creating the illusion of larger size. If the standoff escalates, the ringtail might curve its tail over its head, and—as a last resort—emit its own smelly secretion.
Today’s peek into the archives is for the birds.
“Raymond B. Potter preparing bird specimens for Diomede Bird Group" was photographed by Irving Dutcher in 1930. Find this and more than 7,000 other archival images on our new online database Digital Special Collections.
This image shows the 1947 progression of a mount for the Wolf Diorama in the Jill and Lewis Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals.
It begins with the positioning of the skeleton, then modeling the wolf form with plaster of paris, followed by the making of a cast, ending with a completed paper manikin which the wolf skin is fitted over.
It’s a long weekend, and we’re out of here!
Are you in the city this holiday weekend? Don’t let the rain get you down, there’s so much to see and discover at the Museum, from special exhibitions to our iconic permanent halls.
Here are some highlights from the past week:
- An outstandingly bright meteor shower this holiday weekend.
- Happy birthday to taxidermist Carl Akeley and fossil-finder Mary Anning.
- The discovery of Tropeognathus, a pterosaur with a 27-foot wingspan.
- Show us your Diorama Remix!
- It’s been 50 years since the discovery of the cosmic microwave background.
- Happy World Turtle Day from the multitude of Museum turtles.
Have a great weekend!
When Theodore Roosevelt became President in 1901, he was poised to use his lifelong passion for wildlife and wilderness to direct public policy. While in office, he placed 230 million acres of land under federal protection and established five national parks.
On May 22, 1902, he established Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, depicted in the American marten diorama of the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals, adjacent to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall.
The background of the American marten diorama, which was painted by James Perry Wilson, depicts Crater Lake, the giant water-filled caldera that was created when an immense volcano exploded and collapsed more than 7,000 years ago.
Happy birthday to Carl Akeley, born 150 years ago today.
Explorer and Museum taxidermist, Akeley is remembered for his pioneering method of taxidermy, combining field observations with sculptural techniques, and for his contributions to the iconic Museum hall that bears his name: The Akeley Hall of African Mammals.
Akeley is also remembered for his contributions to conservation. In the course of researching and collecting specimens to create the now-famous mountain gorilla diorama, he was among the first to accurately document mountain gorillas as intelligent and social animals that, even then, were under grave threat from overhunting. His research inspired him to dedicate the last few years of his life to the conservation and protection of the mountain gorilla.
As Slate pointed out, the internet loves crappytaxidermy. While we may not have much to contribute to that illustrious canon, we do know taxidermy. Our video "Modeling Animals in Habitat Dioramas" about how artists create the animal sculptures for the Museum’s famous habitat dioramas, shows what it takes to create a meticulously accurate specimen.
If anyone was born to work at the American Museum of Natural History, it is Stephen C. Quinn, who retired this spring after 39 years as an artist in the Department of Exhibition. (As family folklore has it, 4-year-old Steve pointed to the elephants in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals during one visit and announced, “This is where I want to work!”)
This past weekend, Quinn was honored with the Garden State Taxidermists Association’s Hansen-Schneider Lifetime Achievement Award, for his long, productive career and for encouraging many young people in the Museum arts of painting, sculpture, taxidermy, and more.
Read more about Quinn’s incredible career here.
© AMNH/D. Finnin
It’s Tuesday’s peek into the archives!
Taxidermist George Adams constructs the foundation for a Moa bird model, June 1951.
© AMNH Library/2A2584
Originally created back in 1941, two cougars in our Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals were missing an essential feature. Over the years, they’d lost their whiskers—called vibrissae—that may help cats navigate and track prey into small spaces. So conservators and taxidermists looked long and hard for a replacement material.
How did Museum taxidermists and artists create true-to-life specimens for our habitat dioramas, including the evocative cougar (mountain lion) diorama pictured here?
Artist Stephen C. Quinn explains the multi-step process in this video.
Image (c) AMNH/C. Chesek
Young Theodore Roosevelt loved studying nature, particularly birds. As a teen, he was able to identify most bird species in the northeastern U.S. by their song, flight pattern, courtship behavior, and plumage.
He collected and mounted this Snowy Owl near Oyster Bay, Long Island in 1876, the same year he entered Harvard. It will return to public view when the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall reopens on October 27.
© AMNH/C. Chesek
To create the lifelike moments in the Museum’s dioramas, artisans made meticulously accurate animal sculptures following a method developed by legendary explorer and taxidermist Carl Akeley. Artist Stephen C. Quinn explains how in this video.
Photo © AMNH/D. Finnin