Field Museum diorama from its first expedition to Africa on display again

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Since the 1920s the hyena quartet were in a glass cage in another part of the Field Museum. (WLS)

For almost 95 years, dioramas in the dark old halls of the Field Museum have played a major role in teaching us about the natural world. And now, a diorama from the past will be back on display after decades.

The diorama shows four, rare striped hyenas in their natural habitat in Somalia on Aug. 6, 1896.

Since the 1920s, the hyena quartet was in a glass cage in another part of the Field Museum, overshadowed by much more modern exhibits such as "Sue."

The hyena diorama shows the Field Museum's first ever expedition to Africa. The plan was to capture the scene there and bring it back.

One of the pioneers of modern taxidermy, Carl Akeley, who obviously got too close to his subjects, headed the expedition. And it didn't matter that hyenas are not mother nature's most beautiful children.

"We don't just take the most charismatic and photogenic to put on display in our dioramas. It's important for people to come and look at these and understand there are animals that play important roles in their ecosystems," said Emily Graslie, of the Field Museum.

So if the old-fashioned dioramas sort of went out of style, why are they coming back?

"Old fashioned doesn't necessarily mean irrelevant. We still champion our dioramas and find them significant for their research potential ... For their artistic potential," Graslie said.

"When you look at these dioramas at the Field Museum you're seeing them as they were at a specific place at a specific time. ... It's the real thing."

Four hyenas enjoying a warm meal in August of 1896. They'll be keeping an eye out for you.

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entertainmentthe field museumChicago - Museum Campus
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