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Provincial Museum of Alberta's Habitat Gallery

The Deer Diorama at the Provincial Museum of AlbertaHabitat GalleryAlberta 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 food chains. 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 successful.  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.

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