Charles Abel Corwin was a lithographer and painter, although his specialty was museum murals and habitat background preparation. Born in Newburgh New York, he began his art studies in New York City, and then studied in Munich with the celebrated artist Frank Duveneck. Most of Corwin’s active career was in New York City, although he also spent a great deal of time in Chicago where he taught at the Art Institute. He belonged to the Chicago Society of Artists, the Salmagundi Club and the Bronx Artist Guild. Corwin’s work was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago (1900) where he won a prize, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art between 1901 and 1906, the Chicago Society of Artists, the Boston Art Club (1906-7), the California Artists, Golden Gate Memorial Museum (1916), the San Francisco Art Association, and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor (1916).
July 3 - October 2, 2016
Millions of years ago, the skies were ruled by pterosaurs. They flew with their fingers. They walked on their wings. Some were gigantic; others could fit in the palm of your hand.
This Summer, pterosaurs are coming to Los Angeles. Get hands-on with interactive apps, see life-size models, and pilot your own pterosaur through prehistoric landscapes in our virtual flight lab. Discover the mysterious world of pterosaurs in our upcoming exhibition.
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Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York.
The habitat halls were an integral part of the expansion of the Museum (then the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science, and Art) in the early 1920s. They provided visitors with a close-up view of the natural environments in which the animals were found. This was a particularly important aspect of the Museum's mission because, even then, many of the larger mammals were becoming rare due to human encroachment into their preferred habitats.
In 1920 the Hon. R. F. McLellan, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County, organized an expedition to Alaska to secure specimens for the new Museum exhibits. These and other specimens were incorporated into the first new wing of the Museum, which opened on November 27, 1925 and featured North American habitats on the main floor. The new extension was proudly announced as the world’s first large museum building in which permanent display groups were lighted only and entirely by artificial light. The bison exhibit, comprising animals that had been collected from Antelope Island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake but displayed in a setting depicting the Platte River of Nebraska, was at that time the world’s largest permanent group display of a single species of mammal.
The African Mammal Hall opened in 1930 and was made possible by the generous offer of Mr. Leslie Simson to provide, at his own expense, examples of a comprehensive suite of large African mammals. The North American Mammal Hall on the second floor was open by the time of the 1932 Olympics, when it was described as a hall of marine, avian and mammalian habitat groups. The mammal mounts in all three halls utilized state-of-the-art techniques and the backgrounds were painted by well-known artists.
In the ensuing years, new species have been added to the dioramas of all three halls and some of the scenes have been changed. For example, the geographic setting of the bison herd is now Wyoming. However, because the depicted habitats were meticulously researched, they have continued to provide an accurate record of the environments in which the large mammals of Africa and North America may still be found. All the dioramas in the main floor African and North American Mammal Halls were refurbished and re-lamped in January 2006. The second floor North American Hall was refurbished in May 2007. New birds, reptiles and insects continue to be added to the dioramas.
Robert C. Clark (1920-unknown)
Clark, who worked in oils rather than acryllics, had a soft-focus painting style. He was active at the Museum from 1954-1962.
Charles Abel Corwin (1857-1938)
Corwin was a lithographer and painter, although his specialty was Museum murals and habitat background preparation. Born in Newburgh New York, he began his art studies in New York City, and then studied in Munich with the celebrated artist Frank Duveneck. Most of Corwin’s active career was in New York City, although he also spent a great deal of time in Chicago where he taught at the Art Institute. He belonged to the Chicago Society of Artists, the Salmagundi Club, and the Bronx Artist Guild.
Corwin’s work was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago (1900) where he won a prize, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art between 1901 and 1906, the Chicago Society of Artists, the Boston Art Club (1906-1907), the California Artists, Golden Gate Memorial Museum (1916), the San Francisco Art Association, and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor (1916).
Florence Bryant MacKenzie (1890-1968)
Bryant MacKenzie was born in Boston and studied at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC, the National School of Fine & Applied Arts, and the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. In 1933 she married artist Frank J. MacKenzie (her second marriage). She maintained studios in San Francisco and in Washington, DC where she was the head artist for the Bureau of Exhibits and United States Forestry Service from 1917-42. She was a member of the Washington Art Club, Society for Sanity in Art, and Society of Western Artists. She exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC) during the 1930s and at the Society for Sanity in Art, California Palace of Legion of Honor in the 1940s.
Frank J. Mackenzie (1865-1939)
MacKenzie (1865-1939) was born in London, England, where he studied at the Royal Academy and won the Turner gold medal and a traveling fellowship. He later studied in Paris at Académie Julian. After spending some time in southern Africa, he came to the United States to design the Boer War exhibit at the St Louis World's Fair of 1904. He moved to San Francisco in 1910 but also maintained a studio-home in Washington, DC.
He painted dioramas at many museums across the United States including the Hall of Sciences and African Hall in Golden Gate Park (San Francisco), American Museum of Natural History, Springfield (Massachusetts) Museum, and the Trenton (New Jersey) Museum. He was the husband of artist Florence Bryant MacKenzie and died in San Francisco.
Clark Provins (1910-1991)
By 1940's, the Idaho-born Provins had moved to Los Angeles. He had a career as a diorama artist and scenic painter in the film and television industry (he's listed today as an uncredited scenic artist on the "Wizard of Oz"). He painted at the Museum in the late 1960s and early '70s. Provins was renowned for both his talent and the fact that he painted dioramas backgrounds in his underwear: the dioramas weren't air conditioned, and Provins wasn't shy.
Hanson Duvall Puthuff (1875-1972)
Puthuff was born in 1875 in Waverly, Missouri. After studying at the Chicago Art Institute, he moved to Colorado for art training in 1893 at the University of Denver Art School and then the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He was an established pictorial artist when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1903, where he worked for the next twenty-three years as a commercial artist, primarily painting billboards as well as a theater scene painter. He also was a significant teacher of private art classes. His great love, however, was "plein aire" landscape painting, which he took up full time in 1926. In addition to his own artistic achievements, Puthuff was an activist in the art community. He was assisted in the formation of the two most important artists organizations of the period, the California Art Club and the Art Students League of Los Angeles. He won numerous awards including a Diploma from the Alaska-Yukon Exposition in 1892 and Silver Medals at the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. He was a member of numerous clubs, including the California Art Club, the Laguna Beach Art Association, the Los Angeles Watercolor Society, the Pasadena Society of Artists, the Salmagundi Club of New York, the San Francisco Art Association, and the Southern States Art Association, and the Southern States Art League.
Robert Russell Reid
Reid began his professional career as a commercial illustrator. After ten years in advertising he obtained his first commission as a muralist, creating a life-sized depiction of an Indian village for the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This led to several dioramas for the Wilbur May Museum in Reno, Nevada, the "Penguin Encounter" in San Diego's Sea World, and numerous movie and commercial set backdrops. Reid joined the museum staff in 1985. During the past twenty years he has painted many of the backgrounds for the African Mammal Hall dioramas and two of the dioramas in the North American Mammal Hall. He was also responsible for much of the art in the Schreiber Hall of Birds, the background for the Chaparral Hall, and two murals for the Page Museum. In addition, he has contributed many smaller paintings and illustrations for the museum's traveling exhibit program as well as artwork for the Petersen Automotive Museum and Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. Reid came to the Museum in 1984, and stayed through 2012.
Duncan Alanson Spencer (1911-1999)
Duncan Spencer was born in Los Angeles and studied art at the Chouinard Art Institute in the 1930s. He then took further instruction in watercolor painting from Arthur Beaumo and became a member of the American Watercolor Society. He worked as a scenic artist in the motion picture industry from the 1940s through the 1970s. He also produced California Style watercolor paintings depicting regional subjects and exhibited them in annual watercolor society shows. Spencer produced a number of large scale background dioramas featuring landscape subjects for museum and corporate displays.
The NHM’s new Dinosaur Hall is one of the most extraordinary dinosaur exhibits in the world, and the premier dinosaur experience in the western United States. Inside are more than 300 real fossils, and 20 complete dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures.
One of the centerpieces of the exhibit is the T. rex growth series — the only trio of different aged T. rex specimens in the world.
One of the great things about the Dinosaur Hall is how close the design lets you get to the fossils! Look a Triceratops in the eye, or walk under the neck of a 68-foot Mamenchisaurus that’s longer than a city bus!
All 20 of the complete dinosaur and sea creature mounts have either never been on display before, or have been re-posed according to the latest research. Many were discovered in the last several years by the Museum’s in-house Dinosaur Institute.
The Dinosaur Hall doesn’t just have fossils. The exhibition is also packed with multi-media stations where you can “excavate” specimens and watch never-before-seen footage of a real dinosaur hunting expedition.
Top drawer. Feel free to slide open the drawers in the bird hall to examine an assortment of specimens. You’ll discover a surprising variety of bird feet, wing shapes and eggs (large and small). You can even see how bird specimens are prepared for behind-the-scenes study. Learn more >
Visit a prairie marsh at sunrise — and leave your rubber boots at home. Our immersive marsh exhibit will make you feel like you’re actually trekking through wetlands teeming with life.
Our dense rainforest is home to dozens of birds and other rainforest creatures. Look carefully or you could walk right by some of the most interesting displays — subtly and realistically camouflaged within the thick greenery.
Avian Architects. More than just a place to store a few eggs, bird nests are often feats of architectural ingenuity. Nest types are incredibly diverse. Some are simple depressions in the ground, while others are long pendulous hanging structures. Building methods and materials run the gamut too — stones, leaves, feathers, branches — there are even nests made entirely of bird saliva.
Bug re-education. Explore the Insect Zoo and get to know the truth about even some of the most familiar bugs you think you already know. For example, did you know that there are there are some cockroaches that look after their young for years? Something to consider before hunting down that unsuspecting critter scurrying in the kitchen.
Avoiding the limelight. Bugs certainly aren’t trying to get attention. Most of them are quite shy. The Insect Zoo presents these elusive creatures in a way that allows you to observe them from all angles so you can see how they really act and live.
Now you see them, now you don’t. Insects have some amazing traits to help them survive, including camouflage. Some disguise themselves and move ever so slowly so as not to be detected. Watch patiently. Are those cases empty, or are those twigs and leaves actually some incredibly camouflage insects?
Snacks to avoid. Some bugs are brightly colored and have such distinctive patterns that they really stand out against their surroundings. This instant recognizability can actually work to everyone’s advantage. For instance, Monarch butterflies are poisonous and are best not eaten. Their markings warn predators to stay away, simultaneously protecting the predator from poison, and the butterfly from becoming someone else’s meal.
Locals, mostly. Many of the most remarkable specimens in this exhibit called SoCal home. The Simi Valley mastodon stomped around the area through which the Ronald Reagan Freeway now runs; the mysterious paleoparadoxiid spent its days in the hills of modern-day Laguna; and both the giant jaguar and saber-toothed cat stalked their prey right in the heart of what we now know as the Miracle Mile.
Be a Paleontologist! Besides the amazing taxidermy and skeleton specimens you’ll encounter in Age of Mammals, the Museum’s scientists and exhibition designers have created fun, interactive kiosks that will make you think you’re out in a fossil field, or inside a paleontology lab like the one here at the NHM. You’ll be able to “excavate” the paleoparadoxiid bones, figure out where they belong, and assemble the skeleton yourself!
Continents shift and climates change. We hear so much about global warming in the news because we’re currently experiencing a period of dramatic climate change, but there’s nothing new about it. Age of Mammals presents a long-range perspective to our contemporary situation. Earth’s climate has been changing for millions of years, and those changes have influenced the evolution of mammals — our evolution. When Antarctica was isolated through continental shift millions of years ago, the Earth got cooler and dryer. Vegetation changes came in the form of fewer forests and more grasslands, and then mammals, our ancestors included, evolved to their changing environments. And came to become the remarkable range of species we witness on Earth today.
Mastodons and mammoths were not the same. Although the American mastodon was a relative of prehistoric mammoths, they were distinctly different animals. Mastodons like the one you’ll see in Age of Mammals stood at about half the height of taller mammoths. The two animals had different diets, and therefore evolved different types of teeth, too. The mastodon's simple and low-crowned teeth tell us it was a browser; it tended to eat leaves and twigs. Mammoths (like the Columbian mammoth on view at the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits were grazers; their tall teeth were ideal for munching on grass, much like present-day cows.
Orange County Native. A most mysterious mammal. Paleoparadoxiid, or “Mystery Mammal,” is a previously unknown species of mammal that lived in coastal Southern California about 10 to 12 million years ago. The specimen on display in Age of Mammals is the first known individual of its kind, uncovered in Orange County, CA, during construction of a golf course. Paleoparadoxiids were herbivorous, creatures, and in life they probably four legged, amphibious looked and acted like hippos. Their closest living relatives are elephants, sea cows and manatees.
Land ho! 1542. Imagine what it was really like to explore the California seacoast more than 450 years ago. Look for the elaborate diorama that recreates, in cross-section, the San Salvadore, the ship captained by Spanish sailor and explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. Details of the crew and supplies are based on actual records from the original ship log. Check out the California History Hall >
A little pueblo known as Los Angeles. How does L.A.’s current population compare to the early “founders” or “pobladores”? The city of Los Angeles has a current estimated population of almost 4 million. But the original settlement consisted of only 44 people — a total of 11 families. The pobladores were multi-racial of Indian, African and European origin — a preview of the city’s dynamic multi-ethnic population of today.
Come fly with me. Los Angeles has a longstanding reputation as an automobile-dependent town. But the city is not just about cars and freeways. L.A. has a significant history as an aviation center that goes as far back as the early 1900s when, due to its open geography and climate, the city was heavily promoted as a prime location to test and manufacture airplanes.
City of the future. Despite its rich history, Los Angeles is continually changing and reinventing itself. Evidence of the city’s past is sometimes quite elusive. If you’re seeking solid proof that L.A. didn’t just spring up overnight, inspect the fascinating aerial map of L.A in 1894 or survey the elaborate 3-D scale model of downtown L.A. in the 1930s, which catalogues the city, block by block. Time doesn’t stand still in L.A., but these snapshots bring the city’s invisible past into sharp focus.
Take a continental vacation without leaving the room. Our North American Mammal Halls contain realistic depictions of a range of this continent’s most fascinating environments. Visit arctic ice floes, offshore islands, grasslands, prairies, desert, mountains, tropical rainforests, redwood forests, and the arctic tundra — all in one trip
Always something new to see. Our world-class dioramas were first created in the 1930s, and are so packed with specimens and environmental details that you’ll always discover something you haven’t seen before. Plus we’re constantly updating these exhibits with new specimens.
The fine art of natural history. The magnificent backdrops for the dioramas were painted by noteworthy artists and are valued pieces of fine art in their own right.
Care and feeding. The animals in our dioramas may not need the same level of care as live creatures, however, creating and maintaining the realistic-looking and accurate dioramas for our halls is an ongoing process. Many institutions display dioramas, but the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is unique in that it has, since the 1920s, maintained a full-time diorama program with dedicated staff artists. Learn more about the diorama artists >
Stand face-to-face (and fearless) with wild and dangerous creatures. If you ran into many of these creatures in the wild you’d want to get as far away as possible. But here you can take your time and closely study dozens of ferocious or elusive animals. Go ahead and count every one of the grizzly’s sharp teeth if you want, risk-free.
Not your typical safari. The African Mammal Hall, first opened in 1930, realistically represents creatures and habitats from an Africa that is fast disappearing. To create the elaborate African mammal dioramas, the Museum would send an entire crew on location, including a collector, a museum curator, taxidermists, and an artist or two to sketch the environment and gather native rocks and plant material.
The fine art of natural history. The magnificent backdrops for the dioramas were painted by noteworthy artists and are valued pieces of fine art in their own right, worthy of display in an art museum. Lest we take ourselves too seriously, one of our artists was also renowned for painting backdrops in his underwear! Learn more
See “invisible” creatures. Some shy, solitary or nocturnal creatures represented in the African Hall often elude the human eye and are rarely seen in the wild. The greater kudu first appeared in the fossil record about 1.8 million years ago. However, this animal is rarely seen due to its highly effective camouflage. Here’s your opportunity to actually see one!
Spider school. Much of the information people have heard about spiders is often incorrect or completely fabricated — based more on myth and misconception than reality. To better understand these fragile, reclusive creatures, take some time to appreciate the variety of spiders in the Spider Pavilion and even meet one up close in this safe environment.
Small creatures, enormous thrill. Spiders are often described as scary bugs and they seem so foreign to many of us. Although most people see spiders as venomous monsters, nothing in the Spider Pavilion is dangerous. Take this opportunity to face these gentle spiders, two eyes to eight eyes.
Being a spider is not easy. Spiders are some of the world’s most misunderstood creatures, yet they are important players in most habitats. They are extremely shy and most of them are very fragile. The world that spiders inhabit is a perilous place and they must worry constantly about being crushed or eaten.
Rock your world. The diversity and beauty of minerals on our planet is astounding and so is our Hall of Gems and Minerals. Be sure to catch the breathtakingly beautiful Gem Crystal exhibit (at the far end of the hall near the exit), which highlights some of the Museum's best gem and mineral specimens using dramatic fiber-optic lighting.
The next time you stub your toe on a stone at least you’ll be able to curse it by name…. Discover the geological richness that exists right where you live. Explore the finest display of California minerals in the world and learn about the rich array of minerals and gems in the region.
Gorgeous Geology. Our Hixon Gem Vault houses one of the finest, most captivating gem displays in the country including exquisite rubies, sapphires and emeralds as well as many rare and little known gems. Jewel enthusiasts have a tough time dragging themselves out of the vault.
Heavy metal. Our Gem and Mineral Hall contains one of the largest exhibits of all-natural gold in the world, featuring over 300 lbs total weight in gold, displayed in many of its most surprising forms. Learn more about the hall >
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