The Museum's origami tradition started when
one curator at the Museum's Department of
Entomology, Alice Grey, garnished her little
three foot tall office Christmas tree with insects
made from the art of origami paper folding .
From that very moment something happened.
The idea grew into a major tradition for many
around the world
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Origami Holiday Tree
photographs by
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Origami Holiday Tree
For All Ages. photos by
Roderick Mickens
If you need a gift and you can not get
around town - a museum is a good
place to look around. Most Museums
and Culture Centers have a gift shop
where you find those unique not like
any other sort of things. Featured
here is one of our most favorite
museums - The America Museum
of Natural History. On Central Park
West between 77th and 81st Streets
in New York City. (
The T-Rex Tie in Navy
and Wine $32
For the Family. Dino-opoly $32
for the Home or Office.
Globe Bookends $95
Dino Mega
Toob $12
Right is the Lighted Dino on the front
steps of the Museum of Natural History -
79th Street and Central Park West, NYC.
The Origami Holiday Tree
- Natural History -
The word "Origami" means: the art or process of
Japanese paper folding. This Origami Holiday
Christmas Tree has a history that one might call
"destiny becomes a tradition." It started as a
small thing by one person in a little office in the
New York City American Museum of Natural
History. And from there it grew to an idea that
became an icon 25 feet high in some places
(nearly 10 meters). No one had ever created an
Origami Tree before. That little idea has now
become: A Global Tradition. Here is the story
Ellen Futter, president of
The American Museum
of Natural History
The Origami Tree is located down the stairs of the museum's main lobby.
Every year for more than three decades when the
Origami Holiday Tree appears at the Museum of
Natural History in New York City it indicates one
important thing: it is the start of the Holiday
Season. The theme for the 2005 tree is "flight."
It is represented by the bountiful array of winged
creatures. Birds, such as owls, jays, and doves;
insects such as dragonflies and butterflies; and
even the only flying mammal, the bat, hang from
and surround the base of the tree.
When Alice began with her Origami Christmas Tree idea she began in a small way. She dressed a small tree for her
own home using origami insects as the decorations. Because they were a reflection of her work with insects at the
American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Exactly when this was no one really knows. But it seems likely
that it was before the summer of 1963 when Alice Grey first met Lillian Oppenheimer and began her long association
with the Origami Center in New York. Alice also decorated a small tree for her own office at the Museum.
Special Thanks and Happy Holidays
to everyone at AMNH. Thanks for all
your help.
Alice went on to prepare a tree for the Entomology Department at the Museum, Christmas 1964. The small Origami
Christmas Tree in the Entomology Department became a regular event and was looked forward to by the Museum staff
and Museum's visitors. The Museum Directors liked the tree so much they asked Alice to decorate a bigger tree that
would stand under the lofty cupola in the main vestibule of the Museum. Alice readily agreed expecting the tree to be
about six feet high. But she was aghast when a monster of a tree 25 feet tall was delivered for her to decorate. She
almost gave up on the idea as she considered the enormous task it called for. But Alice's determination won through and
she quickly recruited Museum staff and their relatives to help to fold the huge numbers of origami models required. This
was still not enough -- so she went to her friends at the Origami Center to recruit help. Alice also sought the help of boy
scouts and girl scouts and anyone else who could be pressed to join in. It is amazing that the feat should ever have been
completed, but completed it was and the annual Origami Christmas tree has since become an established tradition at
the American Museum of Natural History with a large Christmas tree being created for every Holiday Christmas Season.
It was a tradition that quickly spread as other folders offered to decorate other trees. An associate of Alice at the Origami
Center, Michael Shall, helped Alice in the Museum for many years and in addition he began to decorate a tree for the New
York office of Japan Air Lines. The idea spread and all over America origami trees were decorated. The tradition spread
abroad to Britain where a tree was decorated for the London Office of Japan Air Lines and then to Holland where Marieke
de Hoop organized the decoration of another 25 foot tree in Utrecht. Michael Shall crossed the Atlantic to help her. In 1993
Marieke organized the decoration of an even bigger tree, the biggest in the world at 45 feet high in a shopping center at
Eindhoven. Decorations were requested from paperfolders all over the world and once more Michael Shall came to help.
Another giant tree was decorated in The Hague for Christmas 2001. The Origami Christmas trees have now over the
years become a worldwide international tradition. They all originated from the little corner of a room where Alice worked.
This was Alice's gift to the world and it will forever be enjoyed by millions of people for generations to come. So the name
to be remembered is "Alice Grey." Alice also co-authored a book on origami paper folding, called "The Magic of Origami."
Alice Gray died in 1994 at the age of 79. And Michael Shall died at the age of 45 in the spring of the following year. The
tradition of decorating Origami Christmas Trees has been continued by their colleagues and among their friends in
Origami USA whose office continued to be at the America Museum of Natural History. June Sakomoto has led the team
which decorates the tree. Each year a different theme is chosen and some truly amazing trees have been the result. In
2001 over 3000 paper cranes were used to decorate the tree in commemoration of those that passed on in September
when the New York World Trade Towers were destroyed. In 2002, the paper figures were incorporated into a sweeping
spiral garland that wrapped round the tree. Paperfolders continue the tradition by using Origami decorations on their own
Christmas trees in their homes, offices, shops, and malls around the world. A colorful story for a colorful holiday season.
Resources for this little story came with the help of The American Museum of Natural History and the British Origami Society. Excepts
from "A Legacy Of Alice Gray, A tree for Christmas" by David Lister. Based on an article on Alice Gray printed in The British Origami,
October 1994. All rights reserved. BOS (British Origami Society) and / or the individual contributors.
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