A diorama is a carefully staged model which can be used for a variety of purposes. Many museums and educational institutions use dioramas as educational tools to convey information in an interesting and dynamic way which appeals to viewers. A diorama can also be used as an architectural model to convey the shape and form of a proposed building or structure. Many students also make dioramas at some point for various classes, especially in elementary and middle school.
Classically, a diorama is assembled inside a box. The inside of the box is painted to create a backdrop, which varies depending on the desired effect of the diorama. Then, various objects are positioned inside the diorama to create a scene. For example, a natural history museum might set up a scene which depicts dinosaurs on a prehistoric plain. In addition to the dinosaurs, the diorama would probably also include historically accurate plants and other features to make the diorama more interesting the look at.
Museum dioramas are quite famous. Many museums use dioramas as teaching tools to set the stage for a collection or display, and to bring their collections to life for visitors. Typically, each diorama is accompanied by a plaque, audio track, or informational brochure which explains what is inside. Some museums may also change the content of their dioramas to reflect the changing seasons, and a diorama sometimes includes moving features as well.
The size of a diorama can vary widely. School children make dioramas in things like shoeboxes; these small models are designed to bring lesson plans to life in a way which is easy for students to accomplish. They also encourage students to research things and bring information back to share with the rest of the class. A museum diorama is much larger, often including life-sized objects and artifacts so that viewers feel more connected to the scene.
Depending on the design, a diorama may provide a small window into a scene, or it could be used to create a sweeping panoramic model which is designed to make viewers feel like they are standing in the middle of the scene. In the sense of an architectural model, the diorama is designed to be manipulated so that people can see it from different views, and people may be able to reach in and move parts of the diorama. The moving parts allow people to see how subtle changes can affect the overall look of the structure, and they can be useful for illustration various construction options.