Miniature Butterfly Dioramas and Pressed Plants


Alexa and Sophia Francis (ages 4 and 6) came to the Miniature Museum of Natural History and made some butterfly dioramas using artificial butterflies and flowers.  We learned about which flowers attract butterflies most, especially milkweed.  We put the flowers and butterflies (made from feathers) in glass and plastic domes, using moss and pebbles, shells and tiny pine cones we collected.

ButterflyHabitat-3  ButterflyHabitat-5

Here are the proud artist scientists!


Then we took a nature walk and collected tiny specimens in the wild.  We pressed them in our microwave plant press, that takes only 45 seconds to press flowers and plants.


Then we mounted them to small cards and put them inside mylar sleeves to protect them.


PressedPlants-3 PressedPlants-4 PressedPlants-5

Alexa and Sophia’s little brother Jude who is nearly 2 years old is a budding artist scientist too!


Experiments and Ringbox Dioramas at The Iowa Imagination Station

A selection of exhibits from The Miniature Museum of Natural History and a portion of our miniature Laboratory went to the Iowa Imagination Station over Spring Break.

Here’s Angie conducting miniature acidity and alkaline experiments with the tiny test tubes.


And here’s Ethan assisting her on the first day.


all to a fascinated audience of younger kids and mature older ones.

ChemistryExperiments Rachel'sDaughter

We also looked at the miniature slides with various magnifying devices and miniature microscopes.


Then a group of talented diorama artists made miniature scenes in velvet ring boxes, using HO scale animals and assorted bits of nature modified for tiny effects.

RingboxDeerHere’s Angie helping a young artist..


And Lizzie Ayers-Arnone and her friend made their own very creative dioramas.


And Emily, Angie and Ethan also made some demonstration dioramas.


A whole world of miniature natural environments!



And Mr. Dog was also in the house, guarding the Miniature Museum and being friendly to all the kids who love dogs.


The Miniature Museum of Natural History and Laboratory are open for private viewings in our regular location at the Summit St. Studio by contacting us via the comments section on this website or by Facebook.

Tiny Experiments in the Miniature Laboratory

IMG_0841Five girls came to visit the Miniature Museum and Laboratory Today – Nora, Alice, Willa, May and Stella with Moms, Katie Roche and Kelly Smith, who also brought Iris, Willa’s little sister.  We did some walking around the miniature Museum with tiny shoes on little fingers.

Then we proceeded to the Laboratory and decided to do the Color Organ Experiment – to show the different acidity or alkaline properties of liquids.




We put on SAFETY GLOVES and GOGGLES to be extra safe!

Then we set up the Test Tubes with various liquids:

TesttubeA  TesttubeB

TesttubeC  TesttubeD  TesttubeE

NowWeAddDropsOfAnthro-  CabbageWithSign

Drops of Anthocyanin was added to the large test tubes first!



The girls added Anthocyanin to each set of 5 test tubes, the full size, mini size, and micro mini size.  All the results came out the same, with a spectrum from red to light greenish yellow!


GreenFoamSink3   MicroMiniTubes1


Then we looked at the miniature slides with the magnifier:


Then we tried to see if blue vinegar and yellow dyed baking soda would make green foam.  It did!  We did it with the miniature glass beaker

MiniatureGreenFoam2  MiniatureGreenFoam

Then everyone had a try over the sink:


Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, BTW!

The girls also made some miniature dioramas…




The miniature Laboratory set is closing down for the night—we hope to see you all on Thursday and Friday of this week at The Iowa Imagination Station from 10 to 12 am!


The Miniature Museum will go to the Imagination Station


On March 19th and 20th, during Spring Break Week, the Miniature Museum of Natural History and Laboratory will be going to the Imagination Station in North Liberty at the Gymnastics Center, 455 Herky Avenue.  We’ll be there between 10 am and 12 noon both days to talk about the project.

We will be bringing an assortment of the fabulous dioramas




We will have the miniature laboratory case with miniature slides and microscope.


MiniatureLaboratory1   MiniatureSlides

MiniatureLaboratoryBottlesBooks   MiniatureLaboratory2

We will have the miniature bird and butterfly cases with the miniature specimen cabinets.



ButterflyCabinet-3   BothCabinets

We make the miniature butterflies and moths by miniaturizing them then printing on vellum paper, carefully cutting them out and slightly bending their wings.  The miniature nests we make on the tips of chopsticks, winding the fleece with bits of hair and grass and glue.

ButterflyDrawer-3   MiniatureNests

We repurposed miniature furniture and make compartments for specimen cabinets, then collect the tiniest pebbles, gemstones, shells and we make miniature eggs ourselves, painting in the spots when required.

MineralShellCabinet2   MineralShellCabinet

And of course the rocks and minerals case, along with

MiniatureNaturalHistoryMuseum-Shells2   MiniatureNaturalHistoryMuseum-Minerals-3

the miniature herbarium where we carefully press plants and mount them on cards with strips of vellum and have a small library of natural history books we’ve made by miniaturizing big ones.


Herbarium-8   Herbarium-4

We will have some presentations on these days between 10 am and 12 noon for those who can attend.  And our special museum guard, Mr. Dog, will also be in attendance to offer pet therapy.


We hope to see you there!

Stella’s Miniature Laboratory

Our Eastern Seaboard Representative of the Miniature Museum of Natural History is Stella Schultz, who lives near Boston.


Stella developed an interest in science very early in life, in love with so many aspects of nature.  Always a dedicated scholar of whatever she finds interesting (she studied Chinese for several years!) she began a botany experiment logbook and got a high powered microscope to look at the things she collected in the wild.


She began her own miniature laboratory with things she built and collected and with some tiny glass test tubes and other micro things sent to her by the Miniature Museum group.  Here are some photographs of her laboratory arrangements.



StellasScalesStella uses her life size microscope to undertake various scientific studies and she records her findings in drawings and descriptive data in her Laboratory Notebook.  Here is her analysis of a Tilia Stem

StellaNoteBookCellSlide  TiliaStem-CellSlide

And her close looking at a feather

StellaSlideLittleBlackDots  Feather-LittleBlackDots

  (Photographs by Allen Spore, Rob Clocker, Anne-Catrin Schultz and Stella Schultz)

We encourage all who are interested in the miniature museum to send us their pictures and tell us about the things you love to study in the natural world!

Micro Miniature Natural History Museum

Grand opening of the Micro Miniature Museum of Natural History – It is 4 inches across and about 5 inches high


It has two floors…


The bottom floor is the natural history dioramas..


And the top floor is the room of globes and armillary spheres…MicroMiniatureMuseumOfNaturalHistory-GlobeRoom

I was inspired to make this room based on a visit 20 years ago to the Museum of the History of Science (now the Galileo Museum) in Florence, Italy.  Their room of globes and spheres is astounding!


And nearby you can see Galileo’s first telescope!


Science has never been more fun!


At Work on The Miniature Museum and Laboratory

After a fine trip to see the masterpiece Museum of Natural History in New York, we came back inspired and will have a diorama party this weekend.  Meanwhile, here’s some photos of our work in progress.  The Museum consists of an array of animal dioramas, which are guarded her by our mascot Mr. Dog, from his plush guard station, and 6 leather suitcases which are currently arranged on our worktable.


The museum itself is housed in 6 leather suitcases—-here is the mineral and shell case on the left, and the miniature laboratory on the right.


The minerals and shells now have a starring selenite crystal column that is illuminated and changes colors!


Selenite crystals are magical, a variety of gypsum rock, and can be illuminated in interesting ways—they can look like hilltop castles.


Here’s the mineral and shell case without the lighted selenium on, and below, the mineral and shell specimen case.



MineralShellCabinet2  MineralShellCabinet

And in the laboratory we have just gotten in some new miniature glass, including beakers, more test tubes and a retort, which is a fascinating bottle for distilling that looks like this:RetortBottleLaboratory

Here is the bird valise, awaiting the new nests we’re making!


And here is our astronomer’s study, which is also the miniature library.


We have added a small new feature to the science study library—it is in the tiny wooden box below, with a quarter to show you the size.  And inside:  a tiny brass microscope!

MiniatureMicroscopeInBox  MiniatureMicroscope

And here’s the miniature herbarium, with all the little books of scientific illustrations.



On a recent walk, we discovered so many lovely colorful flowers still blooming in autumn

and here they are pressed and preserved in our Herbarium thanks to the microwave flower press which takes only 45 seconds!

LateAutumnMiniatureFlowers-HickoryHills         FallBouquetHerbarium

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The butterfly and insect case room is still in progress—the larger butterfly display is being done, but we recently finished a small specimen cabinet of moths to match the butterfly cabinet.




The moth cabinet contains some gorgeous moths, and the butterfly cabinet a colorful array.

ButterflyCabinet  MothCabinet

Thanks for stopping by!

Cabinets of Curiosity


In Maria Enciso Saxton’s bilingual immersion class at Washington School in Pt. Richmond, California,  we  first looked at the historic Cabinets of Curiosity from the 11th through 16th Centuries.


Most Cabinets of Curiosity began as collections of objects by individuals, sometimes stored in specimen boxes or drawers.  As visitors marveled over the objects, collectors began to put them on  more obvious display in cabinets. Word spread of extraordinary objects and scholars traveled great distances to view these curiosities of nature, art and science.  Then various collectors joined together to share their collections—this was the birth of the first museums.  Seeing objects of similar type developed the scientific methods of comparing and categorizing,  discovering how each thing related to one another.  And this led to dispelling myths—like the fact that a twisted  horn of ivory came from a Narwhal whale rather than a unicorn!


Scientific method is based on looking very closely at a large number of specimens to notice similarities and differences, to see all the stages in the birth, growth and decay of organic objects, and to discern the inner structure of inorganic substances.


 The great historic Cabinets of Curiosity specialized in

Seashells  pink-coral  Coral-Statues

Curiosities of the sea:  coral, shells, preserved fish

 cabinet curiosity curiosities animals taxidermy stuffed nature horns antlers shells bones display museum French German toucan birds tusks


Curiosities of nature:  rocks, butterflies, bugs, bones, birds, skulls, leaves

 Frans_Francken_(II),_Kunst-_und_Raritätenkammer_(1636)  Johann_Georg_Hainz_-_Cabinet_of_Curiosities_sculpturesAndSculls

Curiosities of art:  paintings, nature drawings, vases, sculptures

 cabinet_www  albertus-seba-two-headed-deer-300x240

Curiosities of weird fascination:  anomalies of animal life, strange creatures


  Curiosities of science:  brass and glass instruments, test tubes and jars

In our world of miniature laboratories and natural history, we have created a Miniature Cabinet of Curiosité


Like our miniature Laboratory, there is an outer door which hints at what is inside, and the tiny box (2-1/2 x 4 inches) was made by a 90 year old woodworker with loving care, to which I added another door on the other side.


This cabinet is roughly 2-1/2 inches wide.

Here are some details of what is inside…


And a miniature display of butterflies—these are half the size of a penny!


The lowest shelf has a crystal and shells, a coral made from wire and painted to resemble miniature coral, and various vases made from parts of silver and glass beads.  In back is an ivory picture, and a special vase made of bone.

CabinetOfCuriosities-SecondShelfThere middle shelf holds a miniature globe, and an armillary sphere, a miniature scull, a glass bottle, a sculpture of a hand, and a pewter sculpture, along with several miniature shells.


The top shelf has another pewter globe, and scientific device, a tiny nude sculpture, a shell sclpture, a glass bottle, and small brass vials and shells.

And below are some of the objects that didn’t make it into this cabinet, but will no doubt come into play in the future ones!




There are tiny globes made of beads and necklace parts, tiny sculptures, vases made from beads and armillary spheres—and skull beads that look fairly convincing!



Netsuke beads, here of a mouse and a rabbit, are perfect scale, as well as these bone and brass beads


Here is another armillary sphere, a display of real coral made from coral beads, and another bead globe

Vases  FlowerGlobe

All thse vases can be made from bead parts at the bead store.


Bead vases and a crystal ball



Beads can look like interesting scientific instruments from another time—and here is a brass version of coral.


A miniature compass on a silver bead stand, and miniature test tubes using bugle beads and a copper fitting.  Please send photos to us if you have made your own Cabinet of Curiosité!

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