Revisiting Akeley’s Gorillas

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Each of the 28 extraordinary dioramas in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals offers visitors a chance to travel not just in space but in time. The views are of specific habitats at particular moments, painstakingly recreated from paintings, photographs, data, and specimens collected in the field by the explorer and taxidermist Carl Akeley and his team on expeditions in the 1920s.

A diorama of African gorillas shows several adults and one juvenile in a jungle setting with a mountain in the background.

Last fall, Stephen C. Quinn — artist, naturalist, and senior project manager in the Department of Exhibition at the Museum — headed to the Congo on a journey that retraced an expedition Akeley made in 1926. His aim: to find the site depicted in the famous mountain gorilla diorama and, in the tradition of the artists who accompanied Akeley, to produce a painting to record the area’s flora and fauna some 80 years after the scene was first documented for the Museum. His extraordinary trip was recently featured in The New York Times.

On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, Quinn shared finished works, including video, stills, sketches, and a panoramic plein air painting, in the evening program  "From the Field: Revisiting Akeley’s Gorillas."

Watch a video to learn more about the expedition.