Bell Museum Dioramas: Windows in Time

When you think about the major factors
that have changed the landscape of Minnesota; this conversion to agriculture,
the cutting of the great pine forests of the north, we have all those habitats
represented. The dioramas were done as a window at a very particular point in
time. Some of those places exist; some of those places don’t really exist in the
same way anymore. The dioramas are an interesting opportunity to really see
the place as the artist saw it. This diorama tells an interesting story of
the Minnesota River Valley in late fall. And so, the diorama shows an area that
right now is very near the Mall of America.
You can see a lot of interesting things here with regard to vegetation change,
you can speculate on changes due to invasives, and it’ll be interesting to,
you know, watch this place over time. You can then use them as a sort of yardstick
to measure change over time. Every time we’ve gone back and been shocked at how…
sort of unpredictable changes. For example, the maple basswood forest; that
diorama originally was built to represent the first week of May. So when
the very early spring flowers are coming out. That’s now happening almost the
first week of April, though, so even in the space of the, oh, fifty-five, sixty
years since that diorama has been built, that’s how much the climate has changed. What we see in the diorama is a scene from early fall. This is a period known
as the rut for the moose. It’s when males and females are mating. The impacts of
climate change on northern Minnesota are, through time, going to be quite dramatic;
composition of the forest is expected to change radically. Will the Moose be there
in 50 years? Our passenger pigeon diorama brings into
sharp contrast the bird that was the most common bird in our
knowledge and now it’s extinct. The diorama, I think, brings into focus
the potential that people have to cause the demise of species. I think it’s very
interesting to people to see how much we have impacted the world and to see what
the natural world looks like, or did look like, in certain areas. And I think with
some people it really resonates that we have made a really big impact. And some
ways good, in some ways that are not so good. These are going to have less value
over time, they’re going to have more value, because of their beauty, because
they’ve had a lasting effect, and because, as we move forward, I think we’ll see
even more insights and be ever more attentive to maintain an awareness, or
baseline, of our environmental conditions.

2 thoughts on “Bell Museum Dioramas: Windows in Time

  1. The name of the artist who painted many of these dioramas is Francis Lee Jacques, an amazing artist who's work I have always admired.

  2. My favorite part of there museum! Wonderful place! Love the bug collections and the hands on exhibits! Love feeling like a kid when I’m there,so much detail! WAY BETTER then any other museum in the Twin Cities!

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