Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Minnesota's Bell Museum and the Jaques Dioramas

Stephen Quinn, author of the book Windows on Nature, has been instrumental in saving the priceless museum dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History.

Francis Lee Jaques was one of the artists who contributed to the New York museum, and he also helped to create the James Ford Bell Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Now Mr. Quinn is calling attention to a plan to "modernize" the museum, which means changing or taking away the irreplaceable dioramas. 

Quinn says: "Sadly, I have learned last week that the Minnesota State Legislature has approved funds to build a new natural history museum on the University of Minnesota campus at Saint Paul and this new plan calls for gutting the interior of the Bell Museum in Minneapolis, an attempted removal of some of its unique collection of irreplaceable dioramas in order to “reinterpret” some in the new museum, and the possible storage or disposal of the rest."

The J.F. Bell Museum is the only museum in North America purpose-built as a theater for natural history museum displays. According to Quinn, the dioramas cannot be moved or stored. So if the planners went forward with this scheme, it would be a loss for the art and the science represented by these dioramas.
Read Stephen Quinn's complete statement about the issue


Steve said...

Sad, distressing news; and exasperating that Jaques's work could be held in such low regard. Jaques is one of my art heroes, not only for his remarkable diorama paintings but his vivid work in black and white. His illustrations for books by his wife, Florence Page Jaques, and by Sigurd Olson are small masterpieces of notan.

And -- a day late -- thanks for the post regarding your father. He was clearly a multi-faceted person with wide-ranging curiosity.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Steve. For those interested in Jaques' work in pen-and-ink on scratchboard, there are some good samples on Scratchboard.org: http://www.scratchboard.org/francis-lee-jaques-my-wilderness-yosemite-half-dome-and-more/

Sherry said...
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Sherry said...

These diaramas should be part of our national heritage and as such need preserving. It would be a crime to destroy them.

John said...

Sadly this continues to happen at museums all across the country. Remodeling and updating seems to always remove that which is unique and special, in favor of a homogenous museum experience. Museums are catering to their audience and in the process all becoming the same. Nothing against Imax movies, butterfly enclosures, and indoor rainforests, but does every museum have to have these, and at the expense of losing dioramas, glass-cased museum collections, and the architecture that went with them?

Aleada Siragusa said...

How do we stop this from happening? Aleada