When you see kids staring into the dioramas at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, what do you think? Most people would say that they are just looking at the animals. That may be true, but another possible theory is that they are trying to find hidden elves.
The artist who painted the dioramas, Kent Pendleton, drew miniature garden elves and hid them in a couple of the scenes. For example, at the Hoh River Rainforest diorama, if you see a big tree covered with moss, count five trees to the right and you'll see an elf peeking from behind the fifth tree. It's hard to see these elves as they blend in with the surrounding scenery, but if you look hard, you'll be able to spot them and once you do, you'll always remember where they are. While most are in the dioramas, there's a constellation that looks like an elf in the Prehistoric Journey and a little elf riding on top of a painted dinosaur, smiling at you. You have to be looking for it or you won't see it!
Along with the painted elves, there are two actual three-dimensional toy elves hidden throughout the museum, one in the Mars scene of Space Odyssey and one hiding at the Edge of the Wild Pronghorn diorama. Also, there are two painted Yoda characters from Star Wars and two butterflies that actually flap their wings hidden in the Summer Mule diorama.
The museum has a tour called Mysteries of the Dioramas, and in this tour, the curators explain about the elves and tell you where you can find them. You can also get a "Museum Seek-and-Find" sheet at the front desk that explains where to find all the creatures. Actually, not all elves are included. Jennifer Moss Logan, a museum educator, said they didn't include one of the elves because it was so frustrating and difficult to find, even with clues. The artist may also have hidden some elves that he hasn't told the museum about — and if you have a watchful eye, you may be the first to discover them.
"People actually do come to the museum just to find the elves," Jennifer Moss Logan said.
The elves make the dioramas more fun and help entice younger children to spend more time at the museum. It's like a very fun scavenger hunt and it's not what you would expect at a normal museum. All in all, if you go the the museum and you see a miniature elf face smiling up at you, you know that you're not going insane!