Author of “Curating Himself: The Simson/ Tose Dioramas at the California Academy of Sciences,” Angela Braren is a 2012 alumna of the department of Visual and Critical Studies. Her most-recent work, “Storied Skin: The Sexual Politics of Taxidermy Since the ‘Age of Exploration’ ” applies a feminist lens to the history of taxidermy. Please contact her at abraren[at]coa.edu
About Angela Braren’s Thesis Project
Curating Himself: The Simson/Tose Dioramas of the California Academy of Sciences
Golden Gate Park is home to one of San Francisco’s most treasured cultural centers, the California Academy of Sciences. It is both a popular museum and a leading-edge scientific research institution. Its African Hall currently displays 12 habitat dioramas crafted at the beginning of the 20th century. These iconic dioramas meet public expectations of what a natural history museum ought to be while serving as proof of the Academy’s institutional legacy. These dioramas may seem to present “natural” animal families, but once unpacked it becomes clear that they are products of a transition between two distinct types of American masculinity: from a baronial and triumphant masculinity embodied by the dioramas’ patron, Leslie Simson, to an emerging, self-effacing, managerial masculinity embodied by the dioramas’ curator, Frank Tose.