Permanent Exhibit
Grandpa Makes a Scene

The Yenawine Dioramas


The Yenawine Dioramas came to the Carnegie Center in 1972. The exhibit is named after Merle Yenawine, who was born and reared in Georgetown and carved the scenes. He created each tableau based on his childhood memories of Floyd County, Indiana. The dioramas show small town life in the years before and after 1900. Made more than 50 years ago, this folk art exhibit enchants visitors of all ages.

Merle was born in Georgetown, Indiana in 1887. He lived there until age 20 soaking up the memories and adventures he would later show in his dioramas. He did not have formal art training, but very early in life he found he liked to whittle. His talent grew with practice and soon he was an expert at carving figures.

As a boy, Merle dreamed of one day working on the railroad. So when he grew up, he became a fireman and engineer for the Southern Railway. He worked there for more than 40 years, retiring in 1953. Then he had more time to work on his dioramas.

The exhibit has hundreds of moving objects and shows more than 50 community, work, home and farm activities. Buildings are made of plywood and figures are carved from poplar and pine. Human figures are about two inches tall. Each one took Mr. Yenawine about 15 minutes to carve. Many of the human and animal figures are articulated and animated.

A scavenger hunt of the Yenawine Dioramas is available as a tour activity for groups of young people.