Story Preservation Initiative®

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Archive for ‘July, 2013’

Helping to Preserve a Legacy ⎢The Natural History Dioramas of James Perry Wilson and Ralph Morrill

Few would argue that the highest standard in the creation of natural history dioramas was achieved by James Perry Wilson and Ralph Morrill.

James Perry Wilson in Mule Deer diorama at the American Museum of Natural History, 1943. Photograph by Thanos Johnson

James Perry Wilson in Mule Deer diorama at the American Museum of Natural History, 1943.
Photograph by Thanos Johnson

When you stand in front of them, you feel like you are looking into miles of landscape. But just beyond the animals and faux foreground, you are looking at a vertical painting, which recreates in painstaking detail the atmosphere, flora, and geology of the native and natural environment of the species exhibited.

Story Preservation was at Yale University in early 2013 recording Ruth Morrill, widow of Ralph Morrill, and Peabody Museum preparator, Michael Anderson.  While Michael led the interview session, his voice is not heard in the audio as it was Ruth who was both present and participated in the creation of these magnificent works of art and science.

Ruth worked with her husband and James Perry Wilson and shared both her memories as well as knowledge of this fascinating art.


A Dual-Grid System for Diorama Layout by Ruth Morrill, which outlines the methods used by James Perry Wilson can be read here:  

Preparing a grid

A Dual-Grid System for Diorama Layout 

Ruth is sending along a children’s book that she wrote about creating dioramas.  When received, we’ll pass it along.

Wilson’s dioramas – and legacy – have also been preserved thanks to the efforts of Michael Anderson, who has authored several books on the artist.

To listen to Ruth’s story, click here: 

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.  2013. 

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The Visual Poetry of Nancy Howe

Amazingly, Nancy Howe is a self-taught artist

Nancy HoweShe began developing her art seriously in 1988 from her rural studio in Vermont.  Her paintings in oils exhibit a refined quality of realism and quiet presence that emphasize light and strong design. They span the range of subject matter from animals and birds, to landscape, still life, and King Eidersfigures.Howe made history in 1990 by being selected as the first woman artist in the history of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Federal Duck Stamp Program, established in 1934, and her artwork became the design for the 1991-2 stamp.




Liquid Light, Frozen Shadows

Liquid Light, Frozen Shadows, Oil on Belgian Linen, 18 x 26, 2013.
On view this fall at the Woodson Art Museum’s Birds in Art exhibit.
















She has been a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists since 1992 and a signature member of Oil Painters of America since 2002.  Her paintings have become part of several museum permanent collections and been the recipient of numerous national exhibition awards.  She has been a contributing artist in several art publications, including the 2001 Wildlife Art: Sixty Contemporary Masters and Their Work.  For more information, go to:


Grace Note,  Oil on Belgian Linen, 26 x 21, 2011

Grace Note, Oil on Belgian Linen, 26 x 21, 2011

In 2007 Howe created a fundraising project, “Painting a Brighter Future for Women”, in partnership with The Boma Project,  The project is a series of original oil paintings of the native pastoral nomadic people of northern Kenya, and fine art giclee prints from these images, the sale of which benefit women in these communities. It expanded in 2011 to include other areas of the world, including Bhutan in 2011 and the Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands of Panama in 2012.

We will be recording Nancy in the fall of 2013.

Nancy has generously made several paintings available for  Story Preservation Initiative’s Silent Auction, which will take place in August 2013.