Provincial Museum of Alberta's Habitat Gallery
Alberta is a land of immense biodiversity,
and home to five distinctive natural
regions, each with their own
distinctive landscapes, climate and species. The internationally renowned Habitat Gallery, at the
Provincial Museum of Alberta is organized to reflect the majesty and grandeur of the wilderness and wildlife found in Alberta's natural regions.
Although there are five natural regions in the province, the Habitat
Gallery is divided into four separate groups or biomes - Parkland, Grassland, Mountain
and Forest - each group
consists of four main dioramas that depict the landscapes, mammals, birds,
flora and fauna at specific sites within each natural region. They are presented in a manner that almost enables the viewer to become part of the scene.
Very observant visitors may spot the tiny animals tucked away under trees and behind bushes, see the Cougars Near Maligne Lake, Moose in the Swan Hills, or the Trumpeter Swan near Grande Prairie. Beautifully painted
backgrounds illustrate the difference between grassland and forest flora and fauna, as well as the various life cycles and
Many models of plants, birds and animals show a rich biodiversity that surprises many visitors. The attention to detail is immaculate and the viewer is given a sense of the
true lives of the animals which are depicted - a peek into their everyday life high up on the mountain tops or deep in the boreal forest.
Planning and work on this amazing project began long before the museum itself was
officially opened in 1968, with the first diorama, the Pronghorn Sheep, being
unveiled in 1969. Over the next 16 years a talented team of
artists, museum professionals and scientists completed 17 additional dioramas,
all of which make up the Habitat Gallery. The dioramas are so
realistic that one stares in wonder of the skillful artists who laboured
over them. According to museum officials, a team of four habitat (background) and foreground artists
made considerable efforts to ensure the relevance and accuracy of the
painted backgrounds as well as to ensure that specific behaviours of the
animals were modelled and portrayed realistically. Attention was
even paid to representing precise environmental aspects such as
particular climatic aspects and solitude.
Recently the Provincial Museum has added an
audio tour which enhances
the exhibit itself by further increasing the sensation of being there! Recorded in 'surround sound,' the audio tour
transports the Museum visitor into the diorama's environment. One can listen to the prairie breeze, hear the spray of rapids,
the howl of a wolf pack, the lonely cry of the loon, and the crack of ice in deep midwinter. The idea
behind the gallery is to discover new insights about the animals and their surroundings and spot the hidden secrets within each
diorama. To this end the Habitat Gallery has been enormously
Walking through the Gallery on any given day of the week, one is sure to see and hear the wonder of dozens of school
children and echoes of "that isn't real, is it?" It is not surprising to note that the Gallery has become one of the most
visited at the museum. Here we would like to share with you a
visual essay of the production and completion of the dioramas, complete
with the Habitat Gallery audio tour!
The Habitat Gallery is located in the
Provincial Museum and is open seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm.
For more information, visit the Provincial
Museum of Alberta's website.