When it opened in 1902, the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of North American Birds was the first space in the world devoted to habitat dioramas. It was created by Museum ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, whose grasp of the power of the diorama paved the way for millions of Museum visitors to lose themselves in these engaging windows into the natural world.
Known today as the Leonard C. Sanford Hall of North American Birds, the gallery features dioramas of several places where bird species were threatened by habitat loss or hunting. Chapman, an ardent advocate for conservation, helped shape the views of President Theodore Roosevelt, a fellow birdwatcher who established America’s first federal bird reservation in 1903 in Florida. A bird sanctuary near Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt’s beloved home near Oyster Bay, New York, is depicted in a diorama in the Museum’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall.
A few bird species can be found worldwide, but most have adapted to a particular region—sometimes in remarkable ways. The twelve dioramas in the Museum’s Hall of Birds of the World each depict a major biome—a region with a particular community of living things, such as desert or tropical rainforest—along with representative bird species.
The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions, drawing millions of visitors each year.