Carl Ethan Akeley (born May 19, 1864, Clarendon, New York— died November
17, 1926, Belgian Congo, Africa), taxidermist, sculptor, inventor, explorer, and
naturalist, who led five expeditions to Africa, three of which for the Museum of
Natural History where he gathered specimens for his African Hall Exhibition. He
is the author of the book In Brightest Africa.
The Akeley-Eastman-Pomeroy African Hall Expedition was a collecting expedition to
Africa; its mission was to provide specimens for the African Hall at the American Museum of
Natural History, originally conceived in 1910. The man behind both the exhibit hall and the
expedition was Carl Ethan Akeley, an animal sculptor and taxidermist, an inventor, naturalist
and photographer. The Eastman-Pomeroy expedition focused on collecting specimens for the
dioramas of the African Hall, as well as accessories such as grass and bushes, and the creation
of background paintings from artists William Leigh and Arthur August Jansson.
The American Museum Congo Expedition (1909-1915) was sponsored by the
American Museum of Natural History and made possible through the support of the
Belgian government. The expedition party consisted of just two men. Herbert
Lang, a German-born taxidermist and mammalogist was Expedition leader and
photographer; James Paul Chapin, a student and ornithologist who worked at the
Museum was selected to be his Assistant. The main goal was to expand the
Museum’s collection of African zoological specimens, but Lang was also tasked
with acquiring ethnographic material. The Museum was particularly eager to
obtain specimens of the recently discovered (1901) okapi and the square-lipped,
or white, rhinoceros. Lang and Chapin successfully traveled throughout the Congo
region in central Africa (modern day Zaire) to ultimately collect a massive
fifty-four tons of material and over 9000 photographs for the Museum.
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