History, Department of
"In Brightest Africa": Naturalistic Constructions of Africa in the American Museum of Natural History, 1910-1936
Date of this Version
The opening of the American Museum of Natural History's Akeley African Hall in 1936 symbolized the triumph of a vision of Africa almost twenty-five years in its conception. Led by Carl Akeley, naturalists at the AMNH dreamed of "Brightest Africa" (C. Akeley 1924), epitomized in an exhibit that would capture the true essence of the continent and dispel myths of steaming jungles, ferocious beasts, and primitive savages. For them, the Hall was the culmination of years of expedition, research, and discovery in the "Dark Continent," supported by scholarly publication, radio broadcast, and cinematic production. African Hall was scientific proof that "Deepest Darkest Africa" was nothing more than the figment of two imaginations fused; those of Henry Morgan Stanley, a reporter in search of an elusive governor, and Joseph Conrad, a former soldier reminiscing about the realities of colonialism.
Published in Images of Africa: Stereotypes & Realities, edited by Daniel M. Mengara, Preface by Molefi Kete Asante. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, Inc., 2001. Pages 195–208. Copyright © 2001 Daniel M. Mengara. Used by permission. http://www.africaworldpressbooks.com