The building that houses the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda is New York State’s official memorial to the 26th president of the United States, who not only led expeditions for the American Museum of Natural History and augmented its collections with new species, but also strengthened the cause for national conservation. Designed by John Russell Pope, the Rotunda was dedicated in 1936 and declared a New York City landmark in 1967. It serves as the Museum’s main entrance lobby, and is home to the Barosaurus exhibit, the world’s tallest freestanding mount of a dinosaur
Since its opening in 1936, the Akeley Hall of African Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has been considered one of the world’s greatest museum displays. The hall is named after Carl Akeley (1864-1926), the explorer, conservationist, taxidermist, sculptor, and photographer who conceived of, designed, and collected for the hall. All the mammal dioramas in the Museum were created using his highly refined taxidermy and mounting techniques. The animals have been reconstructed with such scientific accuracy and detail that they appear astoundingly lifelike. Akeley’s meticulous attention to veracity, which was applied to the plants, the painted backgrounds, and even the lighting in the dioramas, resulted in faithful and vivid reproductions of the worlds that he wanted to preserve.
The 28 dioramas in this hall, true works of art, depict some of the many animals and habitats of Africa, from the bongo and mandrill of the dense rain forests to the impala and elephant of the savannah. Carl Akeley had a lifelong devotion to the continent of Africa and the conservation of its beautiful wilderness areas. He traveled there many times, embarking on three expeditions for the Museum. During his final expedition, he fell ill and died. He was buried in Albert National Park (now Virunga National Park), the first wildlife sanctuary in central Africa, which he had helped to establish. The mountain location of his grave is near the scene depicted in the gorilla diorama in this hall.