Throwback Thursday Object: The WPA Museum Extension Project Dioramas

Top view of WPA Museum Extension Project dioramas

In the 1930s, the government created a number of relief programs to keep people working as the country struggled through the Great Depression.  One of the lesser known was the Museum Extension Project which paid unemployed artists to create educational models for school children.  I have seen a number of the architectural models of historic buildings, including a scale model of Kentucky’s Old State Capitol Building that is in our collection. 

Front view through glass of diorama featuring monks printing the Bible on a printing press

Our collection also holds eight unusual dioramas of famous scenes from history.  They are fitted into little wooden boxes with glass fronts—which makes them very hard to photograph!—and the lids open to let little hands in to explore.  They came to us from the Kentucky School for the Blind.  The subjects vary from the 1682 Penn Treaty to Coronado’s “discovery” of the Southwest in 1540.  The one shown in the picture features monks printing the bible on a printing press.  They are molded from clay and painted, with a curved painted cardboard background.


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