Among its many oddities—beer, the Bronze Fonz, Bob Uecker—Milwaukee is home to the world’s first museum diorama. In 1890, Carl Akeley, a.k.a. the “father of modern taxidermy,” created a muskrat colony diorama for the then-young Milwaukee Public Museum. The exhibit still stands today, just one of dozens of meticulously crafted, delightfully retro miniature models in the museum’s permanent collection.
Inspired in part by this strange claim to fame, Danelle “D” Kirschling founded National Diorama Month, an only-slightly tongue-in-cheek celebration of the crafty and adorable art form. On Tuesday, March 26 at the Walker’s Point Anodyne, the annual celebration comes to a head with the glorious return of “Diorama-Rama.” This year’s theme? “It’s About Time—History’s Greatest Hits.” The mind reels.
“I really like dioramas and I wanted to do something to bring people together and have some fun,” Kirschling says in a press release. “I’m excited to see what events from history the dioramists decide to portray. We always see so much creativity with materials and ideas.”
Milwaukee Record: Before we begin, it should be noted that this is being billed not just as a Milwaukee thing—this is National Diorama Month. What made you decide to go so big right out of the gate?
Danelle Kirschling: Well, Regional Diorama Month just didn’t have the same ring to it, I suppose. [laughs] It’s starting here, but I’m sure it’s going to snowball, and I expect there will be an International Diorama Month in a year from now. [laughs]
MR: Any particular reason why you’re starting it in March?
DK: It’s kind of the end of winter, and not quite spring. It just seemed like a good month to get…I actually started it about five years ago and I have been celebrating it on my own. This is my first year I’m expanding it and including people nationally.
MR: What inspired it five years ago? What was it about dioramas that spoke to you?
DK: I really liked dioramas, and as an adult I didn’t really get the opportunity to make a lot of dioramas. I had gone to the Milwaukee Public Museum, which obviously has a lot of dioramas, and I had also purchased a pair of shoes at that time, so I decided to make a diorama. It just kind of snowballed into National Diorama Month.
MR: So this is something you and your friends did every year?
DK: Um, no. [laughs] I wish I could include my friends! It was just me! [laughs]