Illustration by Naomi Elliott
The deep, buzzing echoes of the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda are familiar and comforting, like a security blanket. My mother and I walk into the Natural History Museum, almost alone on a quiet weekday. It is especially empty in the older halls, where the dioramas gleam in the dark light and dim wood of the museum’s further reaches. Still just a toddler, I crowd myself towards their stillness, the captured scenes unmoving but full of life, like a frozen waterfall.
The stuffed and mounted animals flicker with the electricity of the living; the glass eyes seem to return a gaze. The drama of these preserved scenes springs from the tension between their stillness and their implied motion. To me, their state always seemed natural, like the dioramas’ stasis would preserve itself and the animals would remain unchanged, forever, unless interfered with.