Displays, Models, and Dioramas

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An Iroquois Longhouse Diorama

The Education Department at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania brings exhibits and programs to the classroom at schools. This forward thinking approach moves one or two qualified presenters to the school with their portable exhibits and related educational materials rather than the school having to bring 20 - 30 children plus teachers and chaperons to the museum. In these days of budgets for field trips being cut, this allows schools to still present outside resources to their students.

of diorama As part of a program integrating portions of the "What's in a House" educational program which I developed (illustrating, for example, that not all Native Americans lived in a tipi), I was commissioned to make authentic replicas of an Iroquois Longhouse as part of the resources to be brought to the classroom. The picture shows that diorama in the process of being constructed. (Click the picture for an enlarged view)

The most difficult part of this diorama was finding authentic materials. The Iroquois alliance of nations typically used elm bark as their exterior and roofing material. Elm is extremely difficult to locate these days since most trees were killed by Dutch Elm Disease. Also, one must wait until the proper time of year to gather materials. One cannot, for example, find flexible willow bark for tying things together in the fall or winter when the tree sap has ceased running.

Working in 1 : 48 scale presented some challenges also. As an example, the cattail mats used in detailing the interior were woven in authentic patterns using strips of real cattail leaves but I had to weave using dental probes and magnifying glasses to work in such a small scale.

For a free downloadable pattern for a paper Iroquois Longhouse model, visit the teacher's resources page of my website by clicking here.

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Susan K. Nelson has a Master of Arts degree in Archaeology Education from the McGregor School at Antioch University.