Bison Diorama Restoration Project
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Unexpected problem

July 25, 2018

The grass we received from Wyoming is drying quickly. After hanging all of the grass clumps upside down, I have been observing it over the past week and have noticed that the grass blades aren’t drying in a straight line, but are twisting unnaturally, especially at the tapering ends. Hanging most kinds of grass upside down usually solves this problem, but when the grass blades are so thin, gravity isn’t enough to hold the grass blades straight.

Dried grass

I have ordered  some glycerine to see if soaking the dried grass in a glycerine solution might straighten the curling grass blades. This method has been used historically with a lot of ground cover in the dioramas to keep dried botanical elements from getting too brittle. In fact, I noticed that the crowberry ground cover in the Alaskan Brown Bear diorama had received a glycerine treatment. It caused the long stemmed grass that was pushed into the crowberry to weaken at its bases and fall over. The stems literally felt rubbery with the grasses that came into contact with the glycerine-infused ground cover. If I’m lucky, the glycerine will straighten the grass. If it doesn’t work, I may need to crop off the clumps with the worst curling and use them as grass the bison has foraged over.

I found notes from a 1989 interview I had with the late Dave Schwendeman of the American Museum of Natural History about glycerine application:


Dave Schwendeman

He suggested that a bath of hot water for 10 minutes might straighten curling plants. Then the recipe for glycerine is:

9 parts glycerine

1 part formalin

15 parts water

(Schwendeman prefers equal parts water and glycerine)

Hang to dry.

Once dry, if the grass feels too limp or wet, it can be rinsed with water to remove some of the surface glycerine.



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