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Here We Go Again: History Redux


Dioramas are 3D displays in museums with artifacts in the foreground with a realistic background - like a time capsule that transports visitors into a scene in history. Instead of a boring glass display with plain background, the intention of a diorama is to build a replica of a specific system and to do it with such precision they become time capsules.

Aaron Delehanty is a modern artist who works on dioramas at the Field Museum, Chicago. He first became interested in making dioramas in elementary school when he made a depiction of 5 New York Native American Tribes. The Field Museum is famous for its detailed dioramas, which became popular in the late 19th century, after the concept was created by Carl Akeley. Akeley worked in the Milwaukee Field Museum and was termed the founder of dioramas.


Before the late 19th century, taxidermized animals were put into glass cases that lined museum walls, which was boring. Akeley devised a better way to immerse the audience. For example, his first diorama shows five muskrats, which also included their den, reeds, logs, and sediment.

The concept of dioramas interestingly derived from a passion for conservation. They used taxidermized species in the dioramas to raise awareness for the endangered animals. President Theodore Roosevelt was known for supporting dioramas.  Case study of the article featured Akeley creating a new diorama for 4 striped hyenas, taxidermized by Akeley in the 1890s which had been displayed in bare glass cases.  In 2015, a crowdfunding project by Emily Graslie raised $155,165 for the creation of a diorama for the hyenas.

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The diorama experts worked with a multitude of specialists including biologists, zoologists, anthropologists, sculptors, archeologists, muralists, and carpenters, and even astronomists.  The new diorama depicts the morning of August 6, 1896, at 5:30 AM, at the exact GPS coordinates where the hyenas were collected. The information was based on Akeley's team's original journals from their research trip to Somalia to view the natural habitats. Precision was key! Delehanty had to remake a small ball of poo that a dung beetle was pushing because “it was not fibrous enough.” Additionally, all of the rocks in the diorama were all shaped with chicken wire, making them extremely light. You have to be amazed by the amount of artistry that went into this incredible display.

Additionally, Delehanty helped construct a Field Museum diorama showcasing the Hemudu, a Chinese civilization from 5500-3300 BC near the Yangtze River. Hemudu learned to build homes on stilts.  Delehanty placed puddles randomly throughout the village and had people interacting with them. If you look at the backdrop, there’s fog in the air. He also built the homes with floorboards made of popsicle sticks, speckling them with red paint to simulate blood stains because people usually went barefoot.


Poble Espanyol (or Spanish Village), is an open museum located in Barcelona, Spain. It was designed by architect Puig I Cadafalch. A total of 117 buildings from various regions of the country were recreated in Poble Espanyol for the World Fair 1929, after visiting more than 1600 Spanish towns. It was actually supposed to be demolished after the World Fair, but its popularity with the residents allowed it to stay open as a real-life park. Although during the reign of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, Poble Espanyol began to decline, but was repaired in the 1990s. In Poble Espanyol, you can see all of Spain in one day. Additionally, it features new multimedia experiences such as a party room. Poble Espanyol also features famous Spanish artists such as Picasso, Dali through the Fran Duarel Museum. One key attraction of real-life historical parks is visitors can see craftsmen in action and buy souvenirs and artworks.  

Heritage Park is located in Calgary, Canada, and was created in 1905. Hikers can pose for photos and eat 19th century ice cream. The employees and volunteers of Heritage Park are dressed in character and always have a smile on their faces eager to talk and educate. The park is populated with heritage buildings from around Alberta and walking through the village gives you a true essence of the past. With the sound of the steam engine in the background and horse carts being pulled on the streets, you could as well be in 1905! According to the article's author, an Erdu mom, real-live historical parks are a great way to explore history in the post-covid era. 

Millenium City Park is located in Kaifeng, Henan. It is a Chinese historical park which takes you to North Song Dynasty, inspired by Zhang Zeduan's painting of that dynamic era. Visitors can walk around and see the different entertainment that Millenium City Park provides, including performances and fireworks. You pay for food via Wechat, a Chinese social media platform and messaging app. Would you consider this an educational experience or just plain entertainment? 

Let's go to the happiest place on earth! Disneyland's Frontierland takes visitors back in time to 18th and 19th century America, from the Mississippi River to Western Expansion. It features the Mark Twain ferry boat ride inspired by Walt's favorite author, who once worked as a riverboat pilot along the Mississippi. Interestingly, this is also how famous author Samuel Clemens (his real name) got his pseudonym Mark Twain, which means two meters deep. Additionally, there is also a ship named the Columbia, to commemorate the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. The main attraction is the rollercoaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, inspired by the mining in the West and gold rush in California. This was criticized for idealizing the dangerous mines and long work hours workers had to endure. Furthermore, they added a Spanish restaurant to represent to diversity of people that journeyed to the frontiers. So do you consider Frontierland educational or just entertainment? 

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world's largest collection of museums, education, and research centers. It's not just a huge museum; it's actually 19 museums, 21 libraries and 9 research centers and even zoos spanning science, culture, history, art, and media. In Washington DC, it occupies a famous historical zone between Jefferson Ave and Madison Avenue between the Washington Memorial to the Capitol Building. 


It all began with its first donor James Smithson and until 1967, it was called the United States National Museum. Over the years, it has expanded to incorporate buildings for African American, Latino, and American Indian culture and many other buildings sponsored by industrial giants. Currently, it is owned and operated by the United States government but it is not formally under the jurisdiction of any of the three federal branches. Its giant influence also includes affiliate museums all over the US and famous Smithsonian publications.  

Called "America's attic", its collection features more than 154 million items. Each year, the museum's budget is $1.25 billion and has a total endowment of more than $5.4 billion. As the nation's most renowned museum institution, it has become an icon in popular culture as well. It was also prominently featured in the film Night at the Museum, where archeological relics come to life.



With so many projects, the Smithsonian has also faced the same challenges of   museums around the world: updating of technology, digitalizing relics, funding educational projects and advocating diversity. In recent years, crowdfunding projects have contributed it by getting ordinary citizens involved in museum initiatives.


Plimoth Patuxet, or Plimoth Plantation (original name which was changed becuase it references slavery), is a live museum opened in 1947 which features early settlers' life in 1627 after the Mayflower’s landing in Plymouth Massachusetts.  It features numerous buildings including barns, thatched roof houses, mills, original breed of livestock, and a 1:1 reproduction of the ship called the Mayflower II. It also features a Wampanoag homesite. Plimoth Patuxet also employs actors dressed in period clothing, speaking in accents to guide the visitors.


However, this live museum is criticized for not mentioning the diseases such as smallpox that the Europeans brought with them to the new world. In fact, more than 90% of all natives died due to these diseases. Tisquantum, or Squanto, was a survivor of such diseases, and helped the pilgrims survive their first winter. It also received negative criticism from indigenous activists for not promoting bi-cultural history as promised. In particular, the indigenous actors were not actually from the local tribes, the Wampanoag. Furthermore, the "wetu" (traditional huts) were not repaired and people were not in costumes, rather in plain navy-blue polos and khakis. Should non-Wampanoags be allowed to work there to promote the culture?  Does having real descendants make it more authentic?

A paleo diet is the diet of ancient man pre-neolithic era, with no processed ingredients. An archeology and anthropology project hosted by New York University for the studies of the ancient world attempts to recreate ancient dishes based on examining artifacts. These “rec-creations” were produced through the use of chemistry, archeology, and technology.

In particular, the researchers were puzzled by a discovery excavated in China’s Tao River Valley in Gansu. Expert anthropologist/archaeologist Jaffe Yitzchak analyzed sediments and oxidation stains to decipher the ingredients of the actual dishes, which was millet. He discovered some pig bones next to the excavation site, which led to their decision to add pork and local spices to this re-creation. Would you be interested to try an ancient menu? Would this become a fad? In China, it has become popular to eat dressed in historical costumes and taste historical menus, especially for tourist. 


The thermopolium was a place where ancient Romans go to relax and enjoy snacks and drinks. The structure was very simple and functional with one single room facing the street. A total of 89 of these were found in in the ruins of Pompeii. You could still see the remains of the frescos, which further implies that it was a cozy, yet fancy bar. Dolia, earthenware jars, occupy the recesses in a marble bar stand similar to a modern-day buffet. One of them served as the “cashier”; archeologists discovered around 1385 coins. A wide variety of food were served including skewers, meat, nuts, cheese and vegetables. On the frescos, Roman gods included Lares (protector of the house), Mercury (god of merchants) and of course Dionysis (God of wine). The thermopolium included meeting rooms and even sleeping rooms too, much like an inn.

Also in Pompeii, on Via dell’Abbondanza (most well-known case study), the Thermopolium of Asellina was found. Based on the 3-D reconstruction, you can imagine it was quite a relaxing and entertaining place with comfortable courtyards, amphorae (clay vessels) for wines, funnels, and lamps that illuminated every corner of the room. Graffiti on the wall mentions “foreign girls for companionship” as this was a popular city for traders and travelers. Among the best-selling foods in thermopolias, there was also the isicia omentata, aka. ancient Roman hamburgers made with minced meat marinated in wine.

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Medieval Times ( is a chain theme park with 10 locations in North America that brings visitors back to the Middle Ages to enjoy a tournament with jousting knights, falconers, and predictable good vs evil performance by actors dressed in fancy costumes. Visitors wear golden paper crowns and drink from plastic wine goblets around a center stadium, while dining on “authentic” cuisine.


A couple, named Ben Robinson and Karen Palmer, writes a series of criticism in stereotypical "cheesy" Middle English mocking the inaccuracies at Medieval Times. For example, tomato soup from a can being both not very tasty and historically inaccurate, as tomatoes were only introduced to Europe after Spanish explored Mexico. Same is true for potatoes which was also a food product as a result of the Columbian Exchange (if you don't know what that is, look it up). Ben and Karen concluded by sharing disappointment at the lackluster meal. Do you think a night at Medieval Times is educational or simply themed restaurant entertainment, not worthy of a fieldtrip?

The famed Titanic by the White Star Line met tragedy on its maiden voyage. :( The ship's first-class passengers were some of the wealthiest and most prominent members of society. A one-way reservation for a luxury parlor suite cost $7,000 then and would be the equivalent of $100,000 today. These high-paying guests were treated to the finest culinary standards; luxuries food was no exception. There were multiple dining rooms — a Parisan café where diners were served by French waiters, a Veranda café resembling a tropical destination (with imported palm trees), and a 10,000-square-foot dining saloon for 500 guests. Each night the elite were served a lavish meal off silver platters while listening to a five-piece orchestra. (What a life!)

Mr. Walter Douglas, a survivor, and first-class passenger recounted, "We dined the last night in the Ritz restaurant. It was the last word in luxury. The tables were gay with pink roses and white daisies, the women in their beautiful shimmering gowns of satin and silk, the men immaculate and well groomed, the stringed orchestra playing music from Puccini and Tchaikovsky. The food was superb: caviar, lobster, quail from Egypt, plover's eggs, and hothouse grapes and fresh peaches. The night was cold and clear, the sea like glass." See the 10 course menu!

Each course was paired with wine. When the meal was complete, the first-class passengers were offered spirits and cigars. In honor of the centennial year 2012, many restaurants and supper clubs re-created that final meal, but none is as close to the actual event as The Balmoral. The commemorative cruise ship left the Southampton, England, port on April 8, 2012, and set out to sail the same course as the Titanic, but making it to New York City. On board, passengers will dine on a replication of the grand meal (only 7- courses) served on April 14 100 years ago.

What is now dinner was called supper and what we call lunch is actually dinner? (confused?) If Charles Dickens invited you to dinner, do you arrive at noon or 6pm? Lives of people a century ago were different, especially rural folks. Dinner and supper are both used to refer to the main meal of the day, and especially to that meal as eaten in the evening. Supper is used especially when the meal is an informal one eaten at home, while dinner tends to be the term chosen when the meal is more formal. In some dialects and especially in British English, supper can also refer to a light meal or snack that is eaten late in the evening. So for the rural population, their main meal was around noon, and that was called dinner. 

Ulster Park, located in Ireland, is a historical replica town featuring the lives of Irish immigrants to America from the 18th–19th century. In addition to learning from storytelling employees, you can book a tour to learn about the Irish migrants who set sail for America after the Irish Potato Famine. (horrible tragic event, definitely search it up.)


Crystal Palace

Built in 1851 for the World Fair hosted in London, the Crystal Palace was an iconic monument to the Industrial Revolution. During the World Fair, exhibitors showed their wares and manufacturing technology to visitors from around the world. Most notably, the Chance Glass factory supplied the giant sheets of glass that were used for the walls and roof of the structure. Designed by famous architect Joseph Paxton, it was a revolutionary building (for 1851).

After the World Fair, it was moved to Penge Commons, and unfortunately, it burned down in 1936 . The neighboring area has since been named Crystal Palace in honor of this iconic architecture.

Museum of the Future

While some museums celebrate the heritage and the life of the past, others take you into the future focusing on technology. World of the Future is a prime example and beckons visitors to explore life in 2071. Located in the UAE (Middle East), the very artistically/futuristic-shaped building features Islamic writing on the outside. Many galleries are dedicated to exploring future technology including space colonization, the future of the Amazon rain forest, DNA bank and sensory meditation and wellness center,  which askes visitors to disconnect from technology. Check out the website and you will be amazed by the graphics!

The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York, hosted the 1939–1940 New York World's Fair. It was only second in cost to St. Louis' Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 as the most expensive American world's fair in history. It had participation from many nations, and over 44 million people saw its exhibitions over the course of two seasons. It was the first exhibition to be based on the future, with an opening slogan of "Dawn of a New Day", and it allowed all visitors to take a peek at "the world of tomorrow", focusing on commercial aviation, automobiles, home electronics, electricity farms, and even American highways. Several exhibits at the 1939 World's Fair were impacted when World War II broke out four months into the event, particularly those that were on show in the pavilions of nations under Axis domination.


American National Exhibition in Moscow

The American National Exhibition, which ran from July 25 to September 4, 1959, attracted 3 million visitors to its Sokolniki Park, Moscow location during its six-week run during the height of the Cold War. It featured American art, fashion, cars, capitalism, model homes, and futuristic kitchens to a communist audience that did not know much about American culture. Nixon and Khrushchev's "kitchen debate" next to the American kitchen booth featuring modern appliances is famous because it "escalated from washing machines to nuclear warfare," according to one observer. The debate began at a model kitchen table furnished by General Electric and continued in a color television studio before being broadcast to both countries.

Who won the debate is debatable. Some deemed the occasion a success since it improved relations between the two nations by humanizing them both. Some claim that the incident led to "a landmark deal to mass-manufacture Pepsi in the Soviet Union," which improved relations and opened up new commercial opportunities for the software giant in exchange for Vodka deals in the US for a Russian brand. Others, however, contend that "relations didn't begin repairing until the 1970s" because "a year later, the Cuban missile crisis drove both sides to the verge of nuclear war." Liberal opponents, meanwhile, referred to the show as a successful American "propaganda campaign" during the Cold War. How do international expos like the World Fair influence world politics and culture? Is it still worth it to visit one of these events now that we have the Internet? Should countries and corporations invest money on these events.

"Blast off to infinity and beyond, cruise the galaxy in a Starspeeder and encounter space-age wonders!" At Disney's Tomorrowland dedicated to space themed rides and tours, visitors explore the future with Star Wars and Buzz Lightyear. Not intended to educate, it's just for fun, but why not!

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