There is, perhaps, no single attraction that has been seen by more visitors to Kansas University than the iconic wildlife panorama in KU’s Museum of Natural History. It’s good news that a major effort has been launched to preserve the panorama for future generations.
A visit to the museum is a rite of passage for thousands of school children across the state, and the panorama is an important part of university lore that draws adults back to Dyche Hall year after year either to share the exhibit with their children and grandchildren or just to feed their own nostalgic memories.
The panorama was installed in Dyche Hall in 1903 and spent several decades with no temperature or humidity controls to prevent its deterioration. Climate controls were added later, but more than a century of time has taken its toll on the exhibit created by Lewis Lindsay Dyche for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Now, museum officials have raised about $100,000 in grant and matching funds to assess the condition of the panorama. The first step was to analyze toxic chemicals, such as arsenic, that remain in the exhibit from the early taxidermy process. The next step, which is expected to be completed by mid-summer will include a piece-by-piece examination to determine the condition of the panorama’s specimens. After that, museum officials will decide how to move forward on restoring, and perhaps updating, the exhibit.
According to museum director Leonard Krishtalka, the goal will be to balance the history of the exhibit while also making the display “more entertaining to a modern audience.”
We trust that any updating will be done with care to preserve the legacy and work of Dyche, who was one of KU’s most interesting historical figures. He traveled around the globe to collect these specimens and create an exhibit that has withstood the test of time. A large part of the panorama’s wonder is the realization of what it took for Dyche to assemble such an exhibit 120 years ago.
Congratulations to the museum staff and financial contributors to the project for launching this effort to preserve one of KU’s true gems.