February 07, 2017

Live Viewing of Historic 1838 Diorama Restoration Open to the Public at Rochester Museum & Science Center

ROCHESTER, NY—Visitors to the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) get a peek behind the scenes at a unique “living exhibit” featuring the real-time restoration and enhancement of the RMSC’s beloved Rochester in 1838 diorama. In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal groundbreaking, experts work to restore and stabilize the 70-year-old diorama in an enclosure that makes the process visible to the public. The Erie Canal is a major feature in the display. Restoration is underway with completion plans for fall 2017.

“Generations of Rochesterians cherish this diorama as an iconic memory of their experiences at the Museum. This project connects our community’s past with its future, making a long-admired treasure available for generations to come and using it to celebrate the importance of the Erie Canal as the mover of goods, people and ideas,” said Kathryn Murano Santos, senior director for collections and exhibits, RMSC. We’re extremely excited to build on tradition in a way that creates fresh, relevant experiences at the intersection of art, cultural heritage, and the conservation sciences.”

Rochester became America’s first western “boomtown” as a result of the Erie Canal, and a diorama completed in 1946 at RMSC celebrates this heritage with a depiction of a scene in downtown Rochester on a typical winter day in 1838. Grants awarded to the RMSC by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the Historic Preservation, Restoration and Literature Fund at the Rochester Area Community Foundation are making restoration and augmentation of the Rochester in 1838 diorama possible. Experts are enhancing its interpretation, modernizing content delivery methods and ensuring its preservation.

While visitors track the progress of this exciting diorama conservation project, they are able to dialogue with expert technicians about the restoration process. Specifics of the upgrade include restoration of the sky painting and diorama foreground, enhanced lighting, augmented reality features, interpretive signage as well as climate control features.

 The diorama reinterpretation, when complete, will address historical inaccuracies in its original presentation, such as the American flags displayed prominently on buildings, incorrect period clothing and the anachronistic inclusion of gas streetlights. These details provide a unique opportunity for visitors to explore how the present reality influences our understanding of history and ponder questions including, “Were flags original to these buildings, or were they added because patriotism was on the minds of the creators during the time shortly after WWII?”

The Rochester in 1838 diorama restoration work schedule and living exhibit viewing hours:

  • Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays: 9am–5pm
  • Saturdays: 9am–2:30pm 

The Rochester in 1838 diorama restoration viewing is free with regular museum admission: $14 adults, $13 seniors and college students with ID, $12 ages 3 to 18, free for children under 3 and RMSC members. For group reservations and rates, call 585.697.1942.

Attendees to Artist’s Studio: Miniature Worlds, a summer camp course during RMSC Curiosity Camps this year, have an opportunity to celebrate the ongoing restoration of Rochester in 1838. In a hands-on experience in the research, design and construction of diorama making, attendees will a make miniature model of the Erie Canal with the help of diorama artists. Visit www.rmsc.org to register.

For high-resolution images and additional information, contact Amanda Bayer, Marketing Communications Manager, RMSC at 585.697.1962 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the Press / News section of our website at www.rmsc.org/press-news.

Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) includes the Science Museum, Strasenburgh Planetarium and Cumming Nature Center. Offering experiences at the Museum with more than 200 interactive exhibits, Planetarium with a 65-foot dome and Nature Center on 900 acres, the RMSC stimulates community interest in exploration. In addition, the more than 1.2 million RMSC collection items tell the story of Rochester’s past including its rich history of innovation and invention. RMSC receives major funding from Monroe County, where it is one of the top three most visited attractions serving children and families. For more information about RMSC, visit www.rmsc.org. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.


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