In the natural sciences, scientific illustration refers to a style of drawing using stippling and simple line techniques to convey information with a minimum of artistic interpretation.
As art reflects culture, scientific illustration reflects the findings of science and technology. Over the years, changing technologies have provided new ways of discovering and interpreting the world. Digital imaging and computer recreation have expanded the artist's tool kit, but they have not entirely replaced traditional techniques. People realize that scientific illustration is useful and an important part of science, because it is a visual record of a specimen or species. In some cases, the particular species illustrated may no longer exist, and an illustration will be the only record we have to reconstruct that species. The eye, the mind and the hand are still the essential tools for scientific illustration.
Just opposite to the Digital Archives and E-learning Center in the lobby of Life Science Hall, the Museum's Scientific Illustration Studio rests in an eye-catching corner. The Scientific Illustration Studio built with French windows offers visitors an excellent opportunity of observing the features of plants and animals. Science illustrators in the Studio use scientifically informed observation, combined with technical and aesthetic skills to accurately portray a subject. Visitors are able to learn techniques for accurately drawing a subject ─ from molecules and viruses to the universe, from depiction of the internal anatomy of arthropods and plants to geologic cross sections and reconstruction of extinct life forms, ranging from realistic to abstract portrayal ─ from scientific illustrators. In addition to a TV monitor, that is great for close-ups of the illustrators' action, visitors can even communicate with illustrators through a small intercom.