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Wildlife Diorama Hall

Location: Main Level

Did you know?

Most Hastings Museum dioramas were painted in the late 1930s as part of the Works Project Administration following the Great Depression.

How big is a polar bear? How do mountain goats climb mountains? And what about those coyotes, caribou, seals and otters?

Hastings Museum’s Wildlife Diorama Hall allows you to see more than 150 animals up close! These animals lived throughout North America, and specimens are set in realistic natural surroundings complete with a painted background. The dioramas themselves are a work of art!

Some animals in the dioramas were hunted, while others died a natural death before mounting, such as in a collision with an automobile or while in a zoo or under other care. Museum founder Albert Brooking was so well known, people would just bring him the animals so he could use the pelt.

Many of those that were hunted were the target of the Museum’s founder or other residents of Hastings, although some mounts made their way to Hastings Museum via a trade.

Many of the dioramas were completed as part of the Works Project Administration in the 1930s and early 1940s and are, themselves, considered works of art worthy of a museum (see below).

Love the wildlife dioramas? Be sure to check out our bird collection and dioramas, too! From passenger pigeons to whooping cranes, Hastings Museum is famous for birds!

Diorama design

Hand created leaf for dioramaImagine creating by hand the thousands of leaves on display in our dioramas. Yet that’s exactly what people did, as every leaf on every tree and shrub was created and put in place by hand. In fact, all diorama foregrounds were made by Museum staff at the time.

In some cases it took nine months to create a single diorama’s accessories, and another six months to put it all together.

Then consider the detailed paintings behind the animals and accessories!

All the diorama backgrounds were hand painted over many months, with many of Hastings Museum’s backgrounds being painted by Iris Daugherty Nunley.

For more on Iris and to get a closer look at some of the backgrounds, click here.