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Each of the Museum’s treasured habitat dioramas depicts a scene from a real place, cast in the light of a particular time of day. These re-creations are based on meticulous observations of scientists in the field and the on-site sketches of the artists who accompanied them. Last fall, Stephen C. Quinn of the Museum’s Exhibition Department took a remarkable trip to locate the exact site of the Museum’s mountain gorilla diorama and record the changes that have taken place in the 80-plus years since Carl Akeley’s final visit. Below is Quinn’s article about his journey, which originally appeared in the Summer issue of Rotunda, the Members’ magazine.
When Carl Akeley—explorer, naturalist, artist, and taxidermist who created the Museum’s Akeley Hall of African Mammals—first encountered the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) in 1921, it was a creature steeped in myth and folklore. Akeley, who was researching and collecting specimens to create the now-famous mountain gorilla diorama, was among the first to accurately document mountain gorillas as intelligent and social animals that, even then, were under grave threat from overhunting. His research inspired him to dedicate the last few years of his life to the conservation and protection of the mountain gorilla. Akeley convinced King Albert of Belgium to set aside 200 square miles that would be their sanctuary, creating Africa’s first national park, which today lies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the border with Uganda and Rwanda, and which has been classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1979.
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You can now explore some of the objects identified at this year’s ID Day—including a 100-million-year-old fossilized fish and a French Navaja knife—online in the AMNH ID Day group on Flickr. You are also invited to add your own specimen photos, comments, and stories to the group. Sharing your photos is easy: just join the AMNH ID Day group and add your photos to the pool. Unidentified objects are welcome—your photo might be selected for identification by a Museum scientist in the coming months!
Click here to join the group.
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Blogging from west Kenya, William Harcourt-Smith, a research associate in the Division of Paleontology, is directing a 20-million-year-old paleontological site on two islands in Lake Victoria. One of these islands, Rusinga, is best known as the site of the discovery of the first fossils of Proconsul, an early ape. Harcourt-Smith’s multidisciplinary team includes physical anthropologists and geologists, and in addition to collecting fossils, researchers are trying to learn more about the evolutionary events and environmental conditions that may have influenced the emergence of Proconsul and other early ape lineages.
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The United States leads the world in frequency of tornadoes, with over 1,000 twisters expected to hit each year, according to the NationalClimatic Data Center. Nowhere are they more likely to occur than in Florida and a large area of the south-central U.S. known as Tornado Alley—the eponymous subject of the heart-pounding new IMAX film now showing on the big screen at the Museum’s Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Theater.