A picture frame with feathers in it and an illustration of a bird with the text "how to make a natural history display" on top
Interior, Tutorials

How to make a natural history display

Have you ever entered an old fashioned museum and thought “this is how I want to decorate my house”? I have. Whenever I visit such a place, where time hasn’t touched the displays for years, I feel thrilled by the amount of wonder and possibility the objects on display hold. There is still so much a mystery! So when I ordered my glass and copper frame, I already knew I wanted to make a display inspired by the natural history museums I’ve visited in the past. When I finished my display, I realised this could be a cool DIY project to share.

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When I finally started my own natural history display, it took me only an hour to finish (including time to draw a cute little bird). So it’s very easy to create your own (and for the pictures of this tutorial I quickly recreated another one). All you need is:

  • a cute frame
  • feathers or pressed flowers
  • tracing paper
  • tape
  • an ink drawing of a bird (or something else)
  • a pen (optional)

My frame existed of two parts, which led me to create my display on two pieces of tracing paper. Of course, depending on your frame, you can arrange everything on one piece of tracing paper. First I laid everything out on the tracing paper. Next I  teared the paper into the right size, because this gives the paper a softer edge than if you’d cut it. I took tiny pieces of tape to fix the different feathers on the tracing paper.

As finishing touch I wrote the latin names of the birds next to the feathers, in my most fancy, 19th century looking, script. I failed at the bottom, because the feather was in the way, so it’s better to do this before you add your feathers.

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After placing and fixing the piece of tracing paper with feathers in on half of the frame, I started drawing my bird. After drawing and inking it, I scanned it in. I cleaned up my scan with Photoshop and then printed the bird on tracing paper.

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Drawing of a bird

You can also draw directly on your tracing paper, but I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t waste too much paper on failed sketches. You could also find a sketch on Google or ask somebody to draw you something, but you can also use my bird, as it’s available as printable.

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After printing or drawing the bird (or flowers, or whatever you want) and adding it to your frame you’re finished!

I love how to light falls through the tracing paper and how it outlines the feathers and the illustration. It fits the nature and natural history vibe I have in my living room perfectly.

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Some frame inspiration

Even though it took me a long time to finally do something with my glass frame, I absolutely adore it! I searched the web for some similar frames, so if you don’t have a frame like this and you want to try this DIY, you don’t have to look far. Most of them are fairly cheap (I paid about €14 for mine).

A collection of lists that are suited for making your own natural history display

  1. Madam Stoltz, 2.Sissy Boy, 3. Sissy Boy 4. Nordal, 5. Moebe, 6. Nordal

Footnote: if you want to use feathers in your displays, please only use feathers you find on the ground or you buy in a shop. Don’t try to take feathers from nests (or birds! obviously!). Also be aware that it is illegal to posses a lot of bird’s feathers in some countries (e.g. US, Great Britain). Look on Google to find out which feathers you can own in your country.

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