Bison Diorama Restoration Project
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Bear Cleaning

June 21, 2018

I started in earnest today on the bears. I brought up some of the planks we have used previously in the Shoreline and the Bog dioramas. They fit into the Bear diorama beautifully so I can now walk around the bears with ease and not crush the dried grasses and crowberry plants. Yesterday I brought the Alaskan Brown Bear rug from our collections to use as a color reference. I will use it with some caution because it probably had some UV damage while laying on the floor in someone’s home. Nevertheless, the rug is significantly darker than the diorama mounts, so it should be of some use.

Bear rug to be used as a color reference and planking in place.


Note how badly faded the head and upper body is.

As with the bison, I began by vacuuming the mounts. I did not use a screen because the fur didn’t break off when vacuumed so I felt I didn’t have to use it. That makes the job easier and I was able to get that first step done on both mounts quickly. After that, I made up a 50/50 mixture of ethanol and water with which to wipe down the mounts. I dip square cotton wipes into the alcohol/water mix, squeeze out the excess, and wipe the surface of the fur.


Wiping down the bear with an alcohol/water mixture.

There is a surprising amount of grime on the fur-especially surprising since the diorama is enclosed in glass. The grime is dark and black. I am reminded of the stark difference I saw in my anatomy labs between human lung tissue from urban dwellers vs. country dwellers. Urban dwellers-even the non-smokers-have dark black lung tissue, while country dwellers have the pink tissue one would expect to see. What I am wiping off, I think, is 65 years of urban air pollution that has found its way into our dioramas.

With the bears cleaned, I am ready to start spraying the dyes. Though before I closed up for the day, I tried to paint some of the crowberry plants a light pinkish color to match the background painting. And while I got some saturated color onto the plants, they are generally still too dark to match the background color. I have a thought about how to get them bright enough and will test that tomorrow as well.



Taken from the following blog: Museum Model Making at Yale Peabody