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Do you like collecting? Do you have a collection of rocks, feathers, toys? Think like a curator and make a diorama of your collection.

Did you know ...

Diorama constructed from cardboard and various other materials. The interior of the box features cut-out colour images of round mechanical objects. - click to view larger image

The Museum has a very large collection of more than 4,000 objects collected by one person, Trevor Kennedy. See some of these amazing objects in The Trevor Kennedy Collection: Highlights.

A curator works in a museum and their job is to find, research and tell stories about objects from the museum’s collection. These objects are put in a showcase to let visitors see and discover the stories they tell us. This showcase is like a diorama full of objects.

Imagine if you had to curate a museum exhibition. At home, you can make a mini-museum showcase by making your own box diorama. What objects would you choose? What stories will they tell? How will you display the objects in your box?

Canberra visual artist Nicci Haynes helped us create our Curious curator diorama activity. Nicci has made some amazing dioramas in her own art practice.

How to make your own museum diorama

Skill level: ★★ Moderate – you may need an adult to help
45–60 minutes
Ages: 5–12 years

Various materials for a craft project including cardboard boxes, plastic lids and cups, glue, tape, ruler, pen, etc.

What your need:

Look around the house or visit your local craft store for materials. You will need a box to hold your diorama and materials to create the inside.


Make your own or see if you can find and reuse a:

  • tissue box
  • cereal box
  • shoe box
  • mailing box
  • matchbox.

Materials for inside the box

This will change depending on your theme and what you have at home. Remember you can draw and cut images out, use modelling clay or cut out photos or magazines. Use your imagination and get creative! Here’s some materials that might come in handy:

  • thin cardboard
  • drawing materials
  • old magazines or brochures (Nicci used photocopied photographs of machinery from an old Museum magazine)
  • cutting tool – scissors, utility knife or box cutters (remember to check with an adult and get help)
  • cutting mat
  • ruler
  • glue, sticky tape or double-sided tape
  • foam board, polystyrene food trays, paper cups or lids to use as spacers for the separate parts of your display.


Think about what themes or stories you will cover in your diorama. This can be anything you like. Here’s a few ideas for inspiration:

  • cogs and wheels, as chosen by Nicci
  • birds – a story about an ornithologist (a person who studies birds)
  • a rock collection
  • your favourite things – objects, sport, activity or friends
  • your home and family.

Step 1

  • Gather materials, including your box.
  • Trace around the outside of the box to get an idea about the size of the background.

Step 2

  • Think about the inside of your box. Is there a theme for the sides or will they be a plain colour?
  • You can line the inside of your box with a plain colour, draw on the sides or cut out images to make a collage.
  • Another option is to draw and cut out your images (like the bird diorama example below).

Step 3

Assemble the pieces for the inside of your box:

  • Collect and cut out the pictures for your diorama.
  • Find different size mounts (lids, cardboard etc) to give the images in your diorama different depths.

Step 4

Assemble all the pieces:

  • Attach your cut-out images to lids, foam board, or different backing materials.
  • Attach your images to mounts with double-sided tape or glue.
  • Challenge! Can you make things move inside your diorama?

Steps 5 to 6

Finish up – no two dioramas will be the same!

  • Make sure all your pieces are attached inside the box.
  • Add a label or write on the back of the box, telling people about the story in your diorama and you as the artist.
Diorama constructed from cardboard and various other materials. The interior of the box features cut-out colour images of round mechanical objects.

Cogs and wheels diorama made by Nicci Haynes

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