Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History is chock full of impressively life-like taxidermy dioramas displaying the state’s natural flora and fauna, some of them even being painted by one of the greatest naturalist painters in history who was poached straight from New York’s Museum of Natural History.
The museum was established in 1872 by the state government in order to preserve the history of the state’s nature areas. While the museum’s collection features thousands of specimens of plant and animals, the most impressive displays are the 16 large dioramas and 90 smaller ones that show the animals in life-like rigor. A handful of these displays even stand out among their peers thanks to their impressively painted backgrounds. Nine of the larger scenes and another 10 of the smaller ones feature realistic backing murals painted by Francis Lee Jaques, a Minnesota born nature painter who is considered to be one the greatest artists to ever work in the oeuvre. Jaques was actually working on the mammal wing at the world renowned Museum of Natural History in Manhattan when he was lured back to his home state to provide art at the Bell museum.
Since the museum’s inception in the late 1800s the collections have continued to expand and have now all but outgrown their original home. They are currently looking to move to a larger space, taking their impressive taxidermy collection with them. The Bell Museum is even looking at moving Jaques’ works along to the next space despite them being painted right on to the back walls of the exhibits.
Know Before You Go
The museum is in the midst of a relocation from the main campus to the University's Ag school in Saint Paul. More information can be found on the Bell's website at https://www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/