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University of Iowa News Release

June 20, 2003

Museum Of Natural History Wins Prestigious Conservation Grant

The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History announced today (June 20) that it has been awarded a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to begin the process of restoring its historic Laysan Island Cyclorama. The $5,000 grant will fund the visit of two professional conservators to make a detailed inspection of the exhibit and recommend a plan to restore and protect the 89-year-old exhibit.

Project coordinator David Brenzel said, "This is just the first step; the real work starts after we get the treatment plan from the experts. Cleaning the 106 birds and 138-foot-long mural will take years. It's going to be a terrific learning opportunity, and we hope to involve as many students and volunteers as possible in the process."

Conservation Project Support (CPS) awards fund a wide range of projects to help museums safeguard their collections. The grants, awarded by a competitive peer review process, help museums undertake their most critical conservation activities. In 2003, the agency received 234 grant proposals requesting a total of $6.3 million. Only 86 projects were funded, totaling $2.8 million. The University of Iowa was one of only two state institutions receiving awards this year.

IMLS Director Robert Martin said, "The Institute of Museum and Library Services strives to raise the visibility of conservation as a cornerstone of museum practice. With funding from the IMLS Conservation Project Support grant program, museums are able to care for collections that encompass the artistic, historical and scientific heritage of our nation. We commend the recipient institutions. They recognize the importance of the collective responsibility they bear."

The Laysan Island Cyclorama is the only exhibit of its kind in the world. It represents the first large-scale attempt to adopt the principles of the diorama in conveying biological information, as well as the first serious attempt to recreate an entire ecosystem in an exhibit designed for the study of the principles of ecology and evolution. Completed in 1914, the Cyclorama includes over a ton of rocks, sand and other materials collected on a remote Hawaiian atoll, including dozens of handcrafted plants and 106 mounted birds, several of which have become extinct. A giant 12-foot-high by 138-foot-long mural painted by Charles Corwin, the first American artist to specialize in painting diorama backgrounds, surrounds and completes the exhibit.

For further information about the project, contact David Brenzel, coordinator, Museum of Natural History, at 335-0480 or Visit the Museum's web site at Also, the project's IMLS contact is Mamie Bittner at 202-606-8339 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, Writer, 319-384-0009,