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The Congo Peacock Expedition

Identifier: Film Collection no. 157

Scope and Contents

Filmed during the AMNH Congo Peacock Expedition to Zaire, 1937. In 1913 James Paul Chapin, AMNH ornithologist and expert on birds of the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), found an unusual feather that he could not identify on a Congo headdress. Twenty-four years later a mounted bird from the Belgian Congo in the Congo Museum (i.e. Musě du Congo Belge) in Tervueren, Belgium, caught his eye because of the similarity between the specimen's feather and the feather he had found earlier. A desire to solve the mystery of the bird's identity prompted Chapin to return to the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) in search of this elusive bird. The film is a record of his search for the Congo peacock. In Belgium, Henri Schouteden, Director of the Congo Museum, and Reň Opdenbosch, ornithologist, pose with mounted specimens of the Congo peacock (which at this point had not yet been named). From there the film chronicles their journey by steamer to Stanleyville (now Kisangani, Zaire) and then into the Ituri Forest. At Angumu, Pierre Dyleff, medical officer at the Bafwaboli Mining Company, exhibits some recently secured peacock skins. The expedition team continue on to Ayena, where Chapin visits Monsieur and Madame Philippe de Braconier. It was here, in Ayena, that Chapin found his first and only live Congo peacock. All of the other skins acquired were purchased from or given to him by local residents. After a stop at a hotel in Bafwasende, Zaire, Chapin and his staff visit the Ruwenzori National Park and the Albert National Park, the latter of which provides the backdrop for some staff portraits. Brief scenes of distant volcanoes at Rutshuru, Belgian Congo (now Zaire), and street activities in Kabele, Uganda, precede their departure from Port Bill, Uganda, for Europe. Back at the Congo Museum in Tervueren, the Director displays the Congo peacock skins presented to the museum by Chapin. The AMNH also received a share of the skins collected during the expedition.


  • 1937

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Not available through interlibrary loan. Contact AMNH Library Special Collections for terms of access.


1 Film Reel (34 minutes) : silent, color ; 16 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (34 minutes)) : silent, color ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

3/4 in., U-Matic, viewing copy


Original format: 16 mm. color reversal original.



James Paul Chapin, photographer.

The Congo Peacock Expedition, 1937
Iris Lee
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
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