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The Carl Akeley Collection.

Discussion in 'Taxidermy History' started by PA, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. PA

    PA Well-Known Member

    Every day I run upon some interesting tidbit about the history of collections or history of taxidermy (or both) and don’t really have many people I correspond with, so don’t really discuss the tidbit. It is rare I have enough time to post much here and thought I would put forth my first history section post for the year.

    Seeing the title above, someone would be convinced that the Carl Akeley Collection consists of the large series of large mammal mounts held at the Field Museum in Chicago which formed the basis of the book by Osgood upon the death of Akeley:

    Osgood, Wilfred H., editor. 1927. The Work of Carl E. Akeley in the Field Museum of Natural History. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. 48 Photogravures + 1-page introduction.

    Includes plates of work primarily done between the years of 1896-1909 when Akeley worked in the Field Museum: 1 portrait, 38 plates of mounts or groups, and 9 bronzes. Reprinted by John Moyer in the 1970s.

    Other people who are more in tuned with the entire hall of African mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, would consider this the “Carl Akeley Collection” which holds many dioramas depicting various sites in Africa that Akeley built or planned, and executed by a huge team of taxidermists that he commanded from roughly 1910 through his death in 1926. Still others may consider the Muskrat Diorama that exists at the Milwaukee Public Museum, said to be the first “true diorama” constructed in the world to form the earliest collection that Akeley had.

    In actuality, the “collection” I am referring to is probably a private collection that he must have maintained either while he was still at Wards, or the brief period of time he was free-lance after leaving Wards and before taking the Wisconsin Job. Some of this is conjecture as I have never read anything about him maintaining his own collection of natural history specimens. The only time was I ever found the words “Coll’n: Carl Akeley” was serendipitously while photographing some New Zealand Birds in the collection for a Curator at the Te Papa Museum in Auckland, New Zealand. I photographed a series of birds we had from NZ that we had obtained long ago and represents the third largest bird collection on iDigBio, outside of New Zealand behind only the Royal Ontario Museum and the Natural History Museum in London (according to https://www.idigbio.org/portal/search).

    We have a few extinct birds from New Zealand including the really cool Huia – the New Zealand Wattlebird Heteralocha acutirostris.
    P24772 Female Heteralocha acutirostris.jpg

    The bird that caught my attention was The New Zealand Kaka is a large species of parrot Nestor meridionalis. There were three tags on this bird and the middle one pictured below says it was collected by C. F. Adams and belonged to the Carl Akeley Collection.
    Nestor meridionalis.jpg
    Carl Akeley Coll'n Tag.jpg

    So, as the web allows deep dives on people, I googled “C. F. Adams” taxidermist and expected to get no hits as I do this sort of thing and the results are usually none. BUT, in this case a paper written by Brian Gill showed up https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273460770_CF_Adams-an_American_taxidermist_at_Auckland_Museum_1885-86

    Research Gate is a place where scientists and other post publications which they may or may not make available to the general public. I can see the paper and hopefully everyone who might happen upon this post can also read this cool piece. The title is “C. F. Adams — an American taxidermist at Auckland Museum, 1885–86” This is a fascinating read.

    Surprisingly C. F Adams is not listed as attending any of the Society of American Taxidermists meetings from the early 1880’s but according the Brian’s article, Henry Ward was the person to recommend him. But further searches on the web gave a diary available at the University of Illinois. See this link: https://www.library.illinois.edu/ihx/archon/?p=collections/controlcard&id=778

    Undoubtedly as Adams prepared specimens for the Columbian Exposition as did Carl Akeley, they could have known each other while Akeley was preparing mounts for that exhibit and thus traded specimens or Akeley bought the bird outright???

    Another link shows a picture of Adams see https://euppublishingblog.com/2014/04/30/a-taxidermists-working-life-in-the-19th-century/ this was published in Archives of Natural History a journal of a society I belonged to many years ago.

    Adams even mounted specimens for the Smithsonian – see inside Shufeldt’s report on Scientific Taxidermy for Museums from 1892. https://books.google.com/books?id=C8EyAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA315&lpg=PA315&dq=c+f+adams+taxidermist&source=bl&ots=9AbWhva3lM&sig=ACfU3U1KTBjvQ97Cp9EY5dIewk7n4wyysg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjArrmMrajgAhWGY98KHZqaBhg4ChDoATACegQIChAB#v=onepage&q=c%20f%20adams%20taxidermist&f=false
    probably collected this bird on his return trip from New Zealand.

    Besides working at the University of Illinois, he was immortalized in a subspecies of the Oriental Magpie Robin – Copsychus saularis adamsi which is a bird he must have collected on his trip to Borneo.


    But the main point I wished to get across was a section of the Brian Gill article. It seems that Adams was credited with creating at least three dioramas. One illustration in the piece shows a diorama of keas feeding on a dead lamb including a background painting which if the painted existed when the bird was first displayed, beat Carl Akeley to a museum diorama by three years before he put together the muskrat group which many consider the first true diorama in the United States.

    For anyone who actually got this far in reading this history post, there is a new pair of books in a series out of Springer-Verlag publishing on the subject of Dioramas – history, education, methods etc. The first volume came out in 2015, and the director of our museum was invited to submit a chapter in mid-2016. I, the head of exhibits and the director wrote a chapter in the second volume.

    Rogers, Stephen Rogers, Rebecca Shreckengast, and Eric Dorfman. 2018. Origins and Contemporary Status of Habitat Dioramas in the United States. Chapter 2: pp 11 - 40 in Natural History Dioramas – Traditional Exhibits for Current Educational Themes. Science Educational Aspects. (Annette Scheersoi & Sue Dale Tunnicliffe eds.) x + 215 pp.

    Anyone who would like a pdf mailed to them can contact me through this forum. I emailed copies to a few people I knew would be interested in the piece but don't have emails for many people.

    On page fourteen in the chapter on the top is a photo of eagle eating a dead lamb reminiscent of the mount by Adams of keas and on top left is a diorama of muskrats very similar to that done by Akeley. Both Dioramas were created by James Hurst and appeared in his free museum as well as Stereoviews which were scanned for the chapter.
  2. Museum Man

    Museum Man Well-Known Member

    always love to read your posts. so much valuable information that was lost in time.
    MixedupMel likes this.

  3. DTS 1046

    DTS 1046 Member

    This post reminds me of the rag tag books on our shelves of old museum work. Always a pleasure to see what was used in the past.
    MixedupMel likes this.