Jaguar Diorama – American Museum of Natural History

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When I was young I loved the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and I still do. Now, however, the dioramas strike me as fascinating examples of installation art and not simply meticulously recreated natural scenes. On a recent visit to the AMNH the dioramas looked as wonderful, transportive, and sad as ever. As a child I was aware of the death that created these and my son (age six) was too. To me they’re of great historical interest. I found myself imagining what they might have looked like to visitors in the early 20th century. (The Hall of North American Mammals opened in 1942 while the African Hall dates from much earlier in the 20th century.) But these dioramas also struck me as contemporary in their sensibility and their aesthetic, teetering between earnestness and irony.

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