It can be easy to forget that something as familiar as the habitat group had a beginning. It did, though, and apparently it took a little time for the fin de siècle museum-going public to catch on.

In 1908, the New York Times reported on the new bird exhibits at the American Museum, completed at great expense and effort:

Two or three days ago several young women were passing, but, attracted to the [mounted] birds in the marsh [habitat group], stopped in front of the group. “That’s pretty good,” said one, “but I don’t see why the museum authorities allow that dirty water to stand there like that. You can smell it clear through the glass case, and I should think it would be unhealthy.” She was speaking of a celluloid preparation used as a water substitute which has no odor at all.

Now that’s success.

Leonard C. Sanford Hall of North American Birds, American Museum of Natural History