Insects are the most species-rich class of animals and make up three quarters of the biodiversity of our Earth. A look through the microscope reveals their richness of colour and shape. Preparator Alfred Keller, who built scientific models for the Museum für Naturkunde between 1930 and 1955, was fascinated by them. During his time at the Museum, he built many unique biological models. His detailed enlarged models of native insects set new standards in the art of museum model building.
Building these impressive sculptures requires many consecutive steps. First, Alfred Keller created plasticine models of which he cast plaster copies. He worked painstakingly on every detail, which had to be replicated in the final paper maché model. Early synthetic materials (celluloid and galalith) were used to make wings and bristles. These were then mounted on the model. Some colouring and partial gold-leaf covering provided the final touches. Such meticulous work took a lot of time and labour. Building just one model could take up to a year.