Archive for November 2009

The Point Pelee Diorama Arrives 11-24-09

November 24, 2009


This is the diorama shell with Wilson's painting. dimensions: 94" wide X 36" deep X 113" high


This may be one of my happiest days at the Peabody.

I saw this diorama for the first time in storage in 1996.  I visited all the museums that had James Perry Wilson dioramas to study and photograph them.  The Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN) in Ottawa had four painted by Wilson between May 1963 and October 1965, but when I got to Ottawa in 1996, only three were still visible in the museum.  The Point Pelee sand dune diorama had been taken off display and put into storage.  I was able to get the staff at the CMN to pull the diorama shell out of storage and uncover it so I could photograph it.  The foreground had been lost, they told me.  Then in 2004, I inquired about it again, asking Monty Reid, director of exhibits at the CMN, if I could use the diorama for a James Perry Wilson exhibit that I had proposed at the American Museum of Natural History (the exhibit was approved, but has not been scheduled-it’s like being in exhibit purgatory).  Then, I heard by e-mail from Monty Reid that the other three dioramas painted by Wilson had most likely been destroyed in the renovation of CMN’s building.  There had been no place to store them, he said.  Distressed, I called Mr. Reid about the Point Pelee diorama to see if that was destroyed as well.  He checked and luckily it was still safe in storage.  I asked if the Peabody Museum could take the diorama off his hands to free up more storage space for them.  I was completely floored when he said OK.  Rick Prum, Peabody’s ornithologist, put forth a plan to include it in the bird hall renovation and Peabody gave their approval.  The rest was all about transporting it here and coordinating all the players and paperwork needed to get it across the border.  A postscript: The archivist at CMN told me that the other three Wilson dioramas had NOT been destroyed and have been reisnstalled in the renovated museum!  I never would have asked for the diorama if I had known this.

I have dreamed about working with James Perry Wilson on one of his dioramas.  I wished I had been able to be here when Ralph Morrill and Dave Parsons worked with him on the 7 Peabody dioramas.  I was 9 years old when the last diorama by Wilson was finished (1963) and all of them have passed away, so now, getting to work on the foreground for the 8th Wilson diorama is as good as it gets.


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November 5, 2009

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