Diorama in Gothenburg


“See the world through a window-pane, the way it once was, but never will be again. Recorded long before YouTube, Animal Planet and Google Earth. The smallest blade of grass is an imitation, a fabrication, created in high resolution 3D. Five frozen moments that took ten years and infinite patience to build, so breathtakingly close to reality. What has happened? What is happening?” is statement at the entrance of the diorama section of Gothenburg’s Natural History Museum.


Göteborgs naturhistoriska museum or the Gothenburg’s Natural History Museum has a diorama section in one of its many exhibitions.

Diorama is a scene, a miniature scene, reproduced in three dimensions by placing objects and figures in front of a painted background; a life-size display representing a scene from nature, a historical event, or the like, using stuffed wildlife, wax figures, real objects in front of a painted or photographed background; a spectacular picture, partly translucent, for exhibition through an aperture, made more realistic by various illuminating devices.

Diorama is a room in a building or a small dedicated structure often circular for exhibiting a scene or picture especially as a continuous unit along or against the walls.

Dioramic representation in the early 20th century was closest creation to Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in 21st century.

Gothenburg’s Natural History Museum notes. “Viewing nature through a window: The origin of the habitat diorama is intertwined with the establishing of the biological museums at the end of the 19th century. Now it was possible, already when building these ‘cathedrals of science’ or temples of nature to plan for like here at the Göteborg Natural Historical Museum, a special tower with daylight coming in. the dioramas were constructed as peepshows and were based on an illusionistic effect. By the placing of the observer, the reduced field of vision and the concave background form, an illusion of atmospheric space and distance was created.

“The taxidermistic techniques had advanced and the skilfully mounted animals were arranged in a foreground which replicated their natural habitats against a background, often painted by the greatest wildlife painters of that time, such as Bruno Liljefors.”

The person behind the creation of dioramas in Gothenburg was Olof Gylling (1870-1929). He worked in creating the dioramas for many years before the opening of the museum at Slottskogen in 1923. He was also a landscape and wildlife painter, zoologist, taxidermist of animals and plants, a geologist and botanist, and acquired the technical knowledge of how to build dioramas. For Gylling, dioramas were an excellent way to show the beauty and complexity of nature and strove to present nature closest to its reality with a need to nature preservation.  He accomplished the creation of dioramas in Gothenburg by making field visits, taking photos of the scenery, made sketches, collected organic and inorganic materials.

For Olof Gylling a dioramic scene ‘should be identifiable with a detailed topographic map’. He was assisted by Gustaf Kihlén who also painted the background sceneries for dioramas. The dioramic exhibits in the museum were created as a result of a donation from Gustav Werner, a local business man and member of the local biological society (Göteborgs Biologiska Förening).