50 years of Mammal Hall at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, with the Lebanon groundhogs looking better than ever

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Harrisburg-based journalist Nick Malawskey posted a picture today of the recently-renovated Mammal Hall at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, drawing attention to the fact that the exhibit’s groundhog scene takes place in Lebanon County.

Mammal Hall was the second gallery in the museum when it opened in 1968.

According to an earlier article by Lancaster Newspapers, the exhibit’s renovation was overseen by Stephen Quinn, who had earlier been art director for a major renovation at the American Museum of Natural History of its Hall of North American mammals. The goal of the million dollar project was to increase the scientific accuracy of animal portrayals.

The biggest change to the groundhog exhibit was fixing the location of the primary groundhog’s shadow. Museum staff explained in a 2016 blog post,

Over the years, the exhibit’s lighting shifted away from the direction of the sun and shadows present in the background artwork. As Stephen Quinn, a member of the diorama renovation team put it, there can only be one sun and, in turn, one direction for shadows.

Why is it a Lebanon groundhog and not, say, a Jefferson County groundhog (home of Punxsutawney)? Although Lebanon County also has a weather forecasting “grundsow” (German for groundhog), that tradition didn’t begin until the ’80’s. So for now, the origins of the Lebanon groundhogs at the State Museum in Harrisburg remain a mystery.

The State Museum (300 North Street, Harrisburg PA 17120) is open Wednesday to Saturday 9am-5pm, and on Sundays from noon to 5pm.

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