200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 3: “Antler Swap ”

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photo of moose diorama
Moose diorama in North America Hall

Antler Swap

Look closely at the Academy’s moose—the body belongs to one animal, and the antler rack belongs to another.

Back in the early 1930s, New York's American Museum of Natural History and Chicago's Field Museum had impressive moose mounts on display. The Academy wanted an equally outstanding specimen to show our interested visitors! In 1933, Academy benefactor Nicholas Biddle traveled to Alaska in search of such a moose. The one he collected was very good, but its antlers were a tad smaller than the moose antlers at the other two museums.

The taxidermist commissioned to mount the moose, Louis Paul Jonas, and the Academy's Director of Exhibits, Harold Green, found a larger pair and secured them to the head of the moose. When the diorama opened in 1935, we could confidently say that the Academy had the largest moose mount on display in North America.

Dioramas were elaborate productions involving adventurers, scientists, artists, and artisans. Ambitious and often arduous expeditions were formed to obtain the animals and record information about their habitats. Contrary to popular perception, animals in the dioramas are not stuffed. Instead, they're mounted on an armature covered by a sculpted body of wire and plaster. The skin of each animal has been stretched over this armature.

You can still see the moose mount in the Academy's North American Hall, along with bison, musk ox, bears, mountain sheep, and more! Visit us today!

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