200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 169: “Moving Pictures ”

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before and after film stills of preparing an antelope for a diorama
Film stills from To Africa for a Habitat Group: 1955 Carpenter Expedition before (left) and after cleaning, restoration, and digitization.

Moving Pictures

To the Academy Library, the situation was win-win: the Exhibits Department had been preparing a new permanent display called Secrets of the Diorama and was looking for classic footage of the art of taxidermy, background paintings, molding and casting, and related skills. The Academy Archives, home to about 400 reels of film, holds a fantastic piece of history in its 16-mm film, To Africa for a Habitat Group: 1955 Carpenter Expedition. The content was perfect for the exhibit, but the film was badly in need of restoration.

The catch? Only that it costs about $4,000 to professionally clean, properly restore, and digitize just one reel. The Library and Archives and Exhibits Departments brought together departmental funds to bring our classic Academy film into an accessible digital format. Now the restored, hour-long DVD is cataloged in the Library and readily available to anyone intrigued by the efforts of this collecting expedition. A seven-minute version showing the expedition, fabrication, taxidermy, and artistry behind the Desert of Borkou diorama is now on display in the new exhibit—guess the secret’s out! 

Stop in to see our newest exhibit, Secrets of the Diorama, now open on the second floor. Watch the restored video, touch an antelope tongue, see the “guts” of a diorama animal, and more!

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