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Legacy Museum places three recently conserved dioramas on public display

April 07, 2019

Theo Moore, Tuskegee University Legacy Museum
Michael Tullier, APR, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing


Recently restored Diorama on display in the Legacy Museum.
Recently restored diorama on display in the Legacy Museum.

The Legacy Museum at Tuskegee University has added three newly conserved dioramas to an exhibit featuring a collection of dioramas created for the 1940 Negro Exposition in Chicago. Each work of art depicts on a miniature scale a scene of historical African-American significance spanning from ancient Egypt through World War I.

The three dioramas were restored through partnerships that provided African-American art students with preservation experience as part of art conservation workshops. The dioramas’ matter ranges from the American Revolution and abolition of slavery to the exploration and discovery of the North Pole

The University of Delaware and the Winterthur Museum conserved the diorama “Crispus Attucks, The First American Martyr, 1770,” which depicts the death of African-born Attucks in the Boston Massacre, making him the first American killed in the American Revolution.

Fisk University conserved the diorama “Negro Businesses” that highlights the success of freed African-Americans immediately after the abolition of slavery. The workshop at Fisk University was a yearlong program for HBCU students and provided training in museum education, curation, museum development and art conservation.

The Smithsonian Institution conserved the diorama “Matthew Henson, Discovery of the North Pole,” which demonstrates an African-American male as the first to reach the geographic North Pole in 1909.

“By witnessing conservation work up close and in person, students can better understand the myriad aspects of restoration work,” said Dr. Jontyle Robinson, the museum’s curator. “Studying the dioramas also introduces students to the practical aspects of art conservation, where they learn how to remove decades of grime and dirt, and repair cracks in each diorama’s surface.”

Tuskegee acquired the dioramas from the State of Illinois and the federal government to use as a vehicle to educate the public. Originally, 33 dioramas were created for the 1940 Negro Exposition in Chicago; however, 13 were lost and Tuskegee was given the remaining 20. For many years, the dioramas were housed in the old George Washington Carver Museum as a permanent exhibit of the Museum of Negro Art and Culture. For a while, they were also displayed in the university’s main library. Because they needed serious restoration, the five-foot-wide dioramas have been stored away from public view for decades.

These three, and two dioramas previously restored in the fall of 2018, are part the museum’s growing exhibit, “20 Dioramas: Windows to History.” Those currently on display can be viewed — along with the museum’s permanent exhibits, “The Patient, The Project, The Partnership: The Mass Production and Distribution of HeLa cells at Tuskegee University” and “The United States Public Health Service Untreated Syphilis Study in the Negro Male, 1932-1972” — during its operating hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. To learn more about the Legacy Museum, visit

© 2019, Tuskegee University