American Museum of Natural History. Akeley Hall of African Mammals.

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Exist Dates

1936 - present

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Permanent exhibition. Opened May 19, 1936. Located on Floor 2, Section 13 and Floor 3, Section 13. The Akeley Hall of African Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, conceived in 1909 by Carl Akeley (1864-1926), showcases the large mammals of Africa. The hall features a freestanding group of eight elephants and surrounding 28 habitat dioramas on two floors. Each diorama is a recreation of a scene observed by scientists in the field in Africa, photographed, and sketched by accompanying artists in the 1920's and 1930's. Each scene depicts a particular location at a particular time of day (1). Carl Akeley and James L. Clark were the chief taxidermists. Other artists, taxidermists, and preparators included Francis Lee Jacques, Robert Kane, James Perry Wilson, Thomas Hull, George Peterson, Robert Rockwell, Fred Scherer, Charles Bender, Albert E. Butler, Richard Raddatz, Louis Paul Jonas, William R. Leigh, Dudley M. Blakely, Joseph Guerry, George Frederick Mason, and Raymond B. Potter. Early curators included Harold Anthony, T. Donald Carter, and G.H.H. Tate. Martin and Osa Johnson contributed photographic studies for backgrounds. Major donors, expedition members, and financiers were Mary L. Jobe Akeley, William Campbell, George Eastman, C. Oliver O’Donnell, Philip Plant, Daniel Pomeroy, Gertrude, Sidney, Morris Legendre, Daniel B. Wentz, and Arthur S. Vernay (2, 1931, p. 4-6; 2, 1937, p. 61-72; 2, 1941, p. 21; 6, 2006, p. 166). Expeditions which contributed to the hall were the Akeley African Expedition, the Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy African Hall Expedition (1926), the Carlisle-Clark African Expedition (1928), the Sanford-Patterson-Legendre Abyssinian Expedition (1928-1929), the Davison African Expedition (1933), and the William D. Campbell African Expedition (1936-1937).

The conception of the Akeley Hall of African Mammals was ambitious and innovative for its time. Carl Akeley, explorer, naturalist, taxidermist, inventor, and sculptor, led three expeditions to Africa for the American Museum of Natural History. It was his life’s mission to preserve the wild mammal life of Africa, which even in his time was fast-disappearing (4, 1984, p. 32).

After returning from Africa in 1911, Akeley dreamed of a new African Hall, which was to be the “inspiration and unifying purpose of [his] work” from then on. He wrote that the new hall would serve to “tell the story of jungle peace; a story that is sincere and faithful to the Africa beasts as I have known them" (4, 1993, p. 19). His plans were for a darkened hall, simple and spacious, with artificially illuminated diorama habitat groups. This way, the worlds in the dioramas dominated instead of the exhibition cases.

Akeley, in addition to being an explorer, naturalist, and inventor, was a skilled sculptor and taxidermist. He pioneered the mounting technique used for specimens in the hall. James L. Clark assisted Akeley in sculpture and mounting for the hall and took over after Akeley’s death in 1926. Akeley also collected many of the specimens he later mounted during his expeditions to Africa (2, 1926, p. 36-37).

From conception to completion, the process of creating the Hall of African Mammals took over thirty years. Akeley first published his plans in 1914, but exploration and collection for the hall itself was delayed during the invasion of Belgium and periodic lack of funds. (2, 1924, p. 12-13; 2, 1925, p. 20) The African Elephant group, which dominates the center of the Hall, opened to the public in 1921 (2, 1921, p. 31) and the hall officially opened to the public on May 19, 1936. It was partially completed at this time, with sketches of future habitat groups displayed in sketch models (2, 1936, p. 3; 3, 1936, Appendix). By the end of that year, fourteen groups remained to be completed. As of 1939, the third floor was under construction and an expedition to Africa was made to collect materials for more animal groups (2, 1939, p. 5). It was finally completed by 1942 (2, 1942, p. 12).

Placed above the dioramas are silvered bronze relief sculptures with related scenes by John W. Hope. Two sculptures by Malvina Hoffman once stood at the entrance to the hall and at the opposite, a large pair of elephant tusks were installed, which remain as of 2017 (2, 1935, p. 14-15; 3, 1949, p. 102; 17).

The habitat groups on the lower (second) floor are as follows:

Water Hole Group

Mountain Nyala Group

African Buffalo Group

the Lion Group

Bongo Group

Giant Eland Group

Upper Nile Group

Plains Group

Greater Koodoo Group

Giant Sable Group

Gemsbok Group

Libyan Desert Group

Okapi Group

Gorilla Group

The habitat groups on the third floor mezzanine or Akeley African Hall Gallery are as follows:

Klipspringer Group

Lesser Koodoo Group

White Rhinoceros Group

Black Rhinoceros Group

Hunting Dog Group

South African Group

Ostrich Group

Leopard and Bush Pig Group

Colobus Monkey Group

Chimpanzee Group

Mandrill Group

Impala Group

Hyena-Jackal-Vulture Group

Cheetah Group (16, p. 102-104; 17)

From the late 1960’s to the mid-1980’s on-going refurbishing and relabeling were conducted in the Hall (2, 1968/69, p. 39; 2, 1971/72, p. 36; 20, p. 2, 1975/76; 21, p. 26; 2, 1985/86, p. 55).

The third floor mezzanine of the Akeley Hall of African Mammals was referred to as the Akeley Hall of African Mammals; Small Mammal Groups, Gallery; Akeley African Hall Gallery; Gallery of Akeley African Hall.

Sources

    (1) American Museum of Natural History. “Akeley Hall of African Mammals,” accessed February 24, 2017, http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/mammal-halls/akeley-hall-of-african-mammals.
    (2) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1921-1985/86.
    (3) American Museum of Natural History. General Guide to the Exhibition Halls of the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1936-1949.
    (4) American Museum of Natural History. Official Guide to the American Museum of Natural History. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1984-1993.
    (5) Akeley Hall of African Mammals. American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY. March 1, 2017.
    (6) Quinn, Stephen C. Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History. New York: Abrams; New York: American Museum of Natural History, 2006.
    Information for the hall appears in the following Museum publications:
    American Museum of Natural History Annual Reports for years 1927 (page 11); 1928 (page 51); 1929 (page 12, 73); 1930 (page 41, 43); 1931 (page 5); 1932 (page 62, 76); 1933 (page 7, 15); 1934 (page 3, 27); 1935 (page 3, 12, 14); 1936 (page 3, 14, 48, 52); 1937 (page 16, 66, 72); 1938 (page 10); 1939 (page 5, 17); 1940 (page 2, 5, 20); 1941 (page 4); 1942 (page 12); 1957 (page 19); 1962 (page 3); 1964 (page 7); 1967 (page 71); 1968 (page 39); 1969 (page 3, 5); 1970 (page 39); 1971 (page 13, 36); 1972 (page 21); 1973 (page 4); 1975 (page 26); 1978 (page 4); 1979 (page 49); 1981 (page 6, 27); 1983 (page 58); 1985 (page 55, 69); 1986 (page 7); 1987 (page 74); 1988 (page 7); 1991 (page 7); 1992 (page 80); 1993 (page 86); 1996 (page 4); 1998 (page 9); 2000 (page 99); 2006 (page 5, 30); 2007 (page 105); 2009 (page 54); 2010 (page 51).
    American Museum of Natural History General Guides for years 1936 (Appendix); 1939 (page 94); 1943 (page 17, 18, 101, 102); 1945 (page 17, 18, 101, 102); 1947 (page 17, 18, 101, 102); 1949 (page 17, 18, 101, 102); 1953 (page 24, 132, floor plans); 1956 (page 26, 139); 1958 (page 26, 141); 1962 (page 12, 13); 1964 (page 12, 13, 29).
    American Museum of Natural History Official Guide for years 1984 (page 10, 29); 1993 (page 19, 50); 2001 (page 61, 61).
    American Museum of Natural History Pictorial Guide 1967.
    American Museum of Natural History: An Introduction 1972, page 5, 8, 9, 15, 70.
    American Museum of Natural History Floor Plan 2012
    Quinn, Stephen C. Windows on Nature: the Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2006. Print.

Terms

localDescription
permanent exhibition
place
New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Floor 2 and 3, Section 13.

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

Adams, George
Diorama taxidermist, (6, 2006, p. 166)
Akeley African Expedition to the Belgian Congo of the American Museum of Natural History (1921-1922)
Expedition collected material for hall.
Akeley, Carl Ethan 1864-1926
Carl Akeley conceived, designed, collected material, and created taxidermy models for the Hall of African Mammals.
Akeley, Mary L. Jobe (Mary Lenore Jobe) 1878-1966
Mary Akeley accompanied her husband, Carl Akeley, on expeditions that contributed to the hall and served on the trustee committee for the hall.
Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy African Hall Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History (1926)
Expedition collected material for hall.
Anthony, H. E. (Harold Elmer) 1890-1970
Curator, Mammalogy
Bender, Charles
Diorama taxidermist (2, 1937, p. 72)
Blakely, Dudley Moore
Diorama background and foreground artist, (6, 2006, p. 166)
Butler, Albert E.
Associate Chief in the Museum's Department of Preparation and Installation, foreground artist and supervisor on dioramas (2, 1937, p. 71-72).
Campbell, William Durant, 1907-1995
Financed trip to East Africa with artist Robert Kane, made gift of the Black Rhinoceros Group (2, 1937, p. 61-72).
Carlisle, G. Lister
African Lion Group, two males, three females, one young. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. G. Lister Carlisle, Jr., 1928. (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Carlisle, G. Lister, Mrs.
African Lion Group, two males, three females, one young. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. G. Lister Carlisle, Jr., 1928. (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Carlisle-Clark African Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History (1928)
Expedition collected material for hall.
Carter, T. Donald
Curator, Mammalogy and member of Sanford-Legendre Expedition to Abyssinia (2, 1929, p. 69).
Christensen, Gardell Dano
Diorama taxidermist (6, 2006, p. 164)
Clark, James L. (James Lippitt) 1883-1969
Diorama taxidermist and supervisor in the Museum's Exhibition Department. The dioramas in the hall were executed under his direction (6, 2006, p. 166).
Davison African Expedition
Expedition collected material for hall.
Davison, Frederick Trubee 1896-1974
Museum President and Davison African Expedition leader. Collected elephant specimens for the hall (2, 1935, p.14).
DeLucia, Raymond H.
Diorama foreground artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Eastman, George, 1854-1932
Sponsored the Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy African Hall Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History (1926). Gifted the following habitat groups: Buffalo Group of Kenya Colony, two males, one female, one young, 1926., Klipspringer Group from Kenya Colony, containing Klipspringer, Reedbuck, Baboons, and Hyrax, 1926. Wild Dog and Roan Antelope Group of Tanganyika Territory, 1926. Water Hole Group of Kenya Colony, rticulated giraffe, Grevy's zebra, oryx, Grant's gazelle, and eland (15 specimens), 1926 (2, 1931, p.4-6)
Ferraglio, Ludwig G. 1911-
Diorama foreground artist and taxidermist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Fleischmann, Max C.
Wild Dog Group gift of Major Max C. Fleischmann (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Freund, Rudolf 1915-1969
Diorama foreground artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Guerry, Joseph M. 1906-1967
Diorama foreground artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Hope, John William, 1889-
Artist for bas-reliefs above dioramas and diorama taxidermist (6, 2006, p. 166).
Hull, Thomas G. (Thomas Gordon) 1889-
Diorama taxidermist (2, 1937, p. 61-72)
Jansson, Arthur August 1890-1960
Diorama background artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Jaques, Francis Lee 1887-1969
Diorama background artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Johnson, Martin 1884-1937
With Osa Johnson took photographs which served as reference for habitat groups.
Johnson, Osa, 1894-1953
With Martin Johnson took photographs which served as reference for habitat groups. Impalla Antelope Group, six specimens. Gift of Mrs. Martin Johnson, 1929. (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Jonas, Louis
Taxidermist, Elephant Group (6, 2006, p. 166)
Kane, Robert W. 1910-1982
Diorama background artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Legendre, Gertrude Sanford 1902-2000External link
Secured Mountain Nyala Group on Sanford-Patterson-Legendre Abyssinian Expedition with Sidney and Morris Legendre. Nyala Antelope Group Of Abyssinia, five specimens. Gift of Mrs. Gertrude Sanford Legendre, 1928 (2, 1931, p.4-6.)
Legendre, Morris
Secured Mountain Nyala Group on Sanford-Patterson-Legendre Abyssinian Expedition with Morris and Gertrude Legendre.(2, 1931, p.4-6.)
Leigh, William R.
Background artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Mason, George Frederick 1904-2000
Diorama foreground artist. Added chipmunk in Okapi Group (6, 2006, p. 67, 166)
McFall, Waddy
Diorama taxidermist (6, 2006, p. 166)
McKinley, Carlton E.
Diorama foreground artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Mills, Ogden
Donor
Narahara, Ushinosuke
Diorama foreground artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
O'Donnell, C. Oliver
Giant Eland Group, one male, one female. Gift of Mr. C. Oliver O'Donnell, 1930 (2, 1931, p.4-6).
O'Donnell-Clark African Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History (1931)
Expedition collected material for the hall.
Osborn, A. Perry
Trustee Committee for hall (2, 1938)
Petersen, George E.
Diorama foreground artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Plant, Philip M. 1901-1941
Financier and expedition member. Collected specimens for hall. (2, 1937, p. 61-72)
Pomeroy, Daniel E.
Sponsored Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy African Hall Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History (1926). Greater Koodoo Group of Tanganyika Territory, two males, one female, and young. Gift of Daniel E. Pomeroy, 1926. Plains Group of Tanganyika Territory, Grant's Zebra, Gnu, Hartebeeste, Robert's Gazelle, Thomson's Gazelle, Topi (19 specimens). Gift of Daniel E. Pomeroy, 1926 (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Potter, Raymond
Diorama bird taxidermist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Pyne, Percy R. (Percy Rivington) 1882-1950
African Elephant Group of Kenya Colony, two males, cow, and calf. Mounted by Carl E. Akeley as the Meredith H. Pyne Memorial. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Percy R. Pyne, 1929 (2, 1931, p.4-6)
Pyne, Percy R., Mrs.
African Elephant Group of Kenya Colony, two males, cow, and calf. Mounted by Carl E. Akeley as the Meredith H. Pyne Memorial. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Percy R. Pyne, 1929 (2, 1931, p.4-6)
Quinn, Stephen C. 1951-
Retouched White Rhinoceros Group background (6, 2006, p. 166)
Raddatz, R.C [Richard]
Diorama taxidermist and memeber of Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy Expedition(6, 2006, p. 166; 2, 1937 p. 61-72)
Rockwell, R. H
Diorama taxidermist and member of Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy Expedition(6, 2006, p. 166; 2, 1937 p. 61-72)
Roosevelt, Kermit 1889-1943External link
Trustee Committee for hall (2, 1938)
Rosenkranz, Clarence C., 1871-1946
Diorama background arist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Sanford-Patterson-Legendre Abyssinian Expedition
Expedition collected material for hall.
Scherer, Fred F
Diorama background artist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Schmidt, Armin V.
Diorama taxidermist (6, 2006, p. 166)
Stone, Edna
Mountain Gorilla of Kivu, two males, two females, and young. Collected and mounted by Carl E. Akeley. Gift of Messrs. Julius F. Stone and Franz T. Stone and the Misses Edna A. Stone, Theodora M. Stone and Natalia S. Stone, 1931 (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Stone, Franz
Mountain Gorilla of Kivu, two males, two females, and young. Collected and mounted by Carl E. Akeley. Gift of Messrs. Julius F. Stone and Franz T. Stone and the Misses Edna A. Stone, Theodora M. Stone and Natalia S. Stone, 1931 (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Stone, Julian
Mountain Gorilla of Kivu, two males, two females, and young. Collected and mounted by Carl E. Akeley. Gift of Messrs. Julius F. Stone and Franz T. Stone and the Misses Edna A. Stone, Theodora M. Stone and Natalia S. Stone, 1931 (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Stone, Natalia
Mountain Gorilla of Kivu, two males, two females, and young. Collected and mounted by Carl E. Akeley. Gift of Messrs. Julius F. Stone and Franz T. Stone and the Misses Edna A. Stone, Theodora M. Stone and Natalia S. Stone, 1931 (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Stone, Theodora
Mountain Gorilla of Kivu, two males, two females, and young. Collected and mounted by Carl E. Akeley. Gift of Messrs. Julius F. Stone and Franz T. Stone and the Misses Edna A. Stone, Theodora M. Stone and Natalia S. Stone, 1931 (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Tate, G. H. H. (George Henry Hamilton) 1894-1953
Curator, Mammalogy. Collected for groups in Hall (2, 1940, p. 19)
Vernay, Arthur Stannard 1877-1960
South African Group, Giant Sable Antelope Group from Portoguese West Africa, two males, two females, and young. Gift of Mr. Arthur S. Vernay, 1925. (2, 1931, p.4-6).
Wentz, Daniel B. (Daniel Bertsch) 1872-1926
Lesser Koodoo and Gerenuk of Tanganyika Territory, six specimens. Gift of Daniel B. Wentz of Philadelphia, 1926. (2, 1931, p.4-6)

Related Resources

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Historic Halls of the American Museum of Natural History
Curated digital images of permanent halls in the American Museum of Natural History Library, Digital Special Collections.

Written by: Clare O'Dowd
Last modified: 2018 December 7


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