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Nature's MirrorHow Taxidermists Shaped America's Natural History Museums and Saved Endangered Species$
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Mary Anne Andrei

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226730318

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226730455.001.0001

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“Brightest Africa”: Carl Akeley and the American Museum’s Race to Bring Africa to America

“Brightest Africa”: Carl Akeley and the American Museum’s Race to Bring Africa to America

(p.170) Chapter Six “Brightest Africa”: Carl Akeley and the American Museum’s Race to Bring Africa to America
Nature's Mirror

Mary Anne Andrei

University of Chicago Press

In 1911, Carl Akeley assumed his new position as chief taxidermist of the American Museum of Natural History, where he hoped to bring together his improved method of taxidermy and his idea of curved-back dioramas to make a record of Africa’s fast-disappearing fauna. Akeley’s plan for a hall of African wildlife was ambitious and unlike anything previously attempted in a natural history museum. The overall design would represent the range of the continent’s ecosystems, complete with flora and fauna. Through a collaborative effort between Akeley and the scientists who were gathering new data about the animals’ habitats and behavior, the museum would have the most scientifically accurate exhibit of African wildlife anywhere in the world. Akeley’s development of a new concept of museum display that successfully merged scientific and decorative taxidermy coincided not only with the rise of public exhibition space in natural history museums, but also with a growing wildlife conservation movement in the United States. This confluence promised museum displays that combined all the advanced techniques of taxidermy with the latest scientific information—presented in an accessible language meant to inform, and in some instances influence, museum visitors to embrace an environmental ethic.

Keywords:   Carl Akeley, American Museum of Natural History, diorama, exhibit, taxidermy, African wildlife

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