Burton took several trips to New York City to study the exhibitions at the American Museum of Natural History. She would spend long hours drawing the dinosaur skeletons and the large dioramas of plant and animal life. Many of the sketches of the skeletons include people looking at the exhibitions. Some of her drawings even show small figures cleaning the displays with a tiny vacuum. Several images in her sketchbook feature exhibitions on display at the museum today.
This drawing shows the front steps to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Sketch of a dinosaur skeleton being cleaned by two men with a small vacuum.
This cross section of a museum features all the different floors and exhibits in one cute illustration. A different drawing in black and white appears in the endpapers for Life Story.
Drawings of early cat-like mammal. Note the Smilodon, or saber-tooth cat, on the bottom. It became extinct over 11,000 years ago.
These drawings are of skeletons and skulls of dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
These drawings of dinosaur skeletons with people standing next to them for scale are from one of Burton’s sketchbooks.
Drawing of Gorgosaurus from sketchbook.
A sketch of various forms of life, both vertebrates and invertebrates, branching out from a central point of origin (a cladogram).
Telling the story of life from its conception was not an easy task. Without science background Burton had to devote many hours to reading books and visiting museums. She had to make the story simple enough for children to understand and dramatic enough to hold their attention.
Burton was a perfectionist, as well, and it took her eight years to finish the book. Once she had written the text in her sketchbooks, it did not change throughout the process. Most of her time when into drawing and fine tuning the illustrations.