The reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), also known as the caribou when wild in North America, is an Arctic and Subarctic-dwelling deer, widespread and numerous across the northern Holarctic.
This tundra scene on the Alaska Peninsula features a sand lake, margined by a muskeg swamp, across from a retreating glacier. The Peninsula is home of violent squalls, known locally as williwaws, a name originated for similar storms in Tierra del Fuego.
The dioramas in the Museum of Natural History's Hall of North American Mammals, opened in 1958, with their precise depictions of geographical locations and the careful, anatomically correct mounting of the specimens, are windows onto a world of animals, their behavior, and their habitats. Moreover, since many of the environments represented have been exploited or degraded, some dioramas preserve places and animals as they no longer exist.
More than 25 Museum expeditions, ranging from Mexico to Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, produced the magnificent displays in the Hall of North American mammals. James Perry Wilson (1889-1976), a master of artful illusion, painted the backgrounds for many of the dioramas. In addition to accurately capturing every detail, his paintings evoke the intangible feel of the places they depict. This is owed in part to Wilson's dizzyingly precise perspective, one of his signature qualities. In his dioramas the real materials of the foreground merge impeccably with the painted background, uniting the two- and three-dimensional into a seamless whole.