Episode 203: Behind the Glass

alt="Clarence the gorilla"
Clarence the gorilla at AMNH

In this episode, we explore the impact of natural history museums and the taxidermied specimens within them. Through one particular animal, Clarence the Gorilla, we learn what the art and science of taxidermy tells us about humanity and about our response to climate change and the rapidly growing environmental anxiety that accompanies it. We delve into the the figures behind the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the infamous dioramas in Akeley’s Hall of African Mammals, specimens sitting in their own unique worlds, still and silent, behind glass.

Show notes

  • Chasing Ice is available for viewing online on Amazon Prime and iTunes
  • Jay Kirk’s book is also available for sale on Amazon
  • This episode was hosted and produced by Celia Konowe and Elizabeth Tighe, and engineered by Zoe James
  • Transcript for the episode

Gallery

works cited

“About the Museum.” American Museum of Natural History. Accessed April 11, 2019. https://www.amnh.org/about.

“Carl Akeley (“father of Modern Taxidermy”).” Geni_family_tree. May 24, 2018. Accessed April 11, 2019. https://www.geni.com/people/Carl-Akeley-father-of-modern-taxidermy/6000000020016531597.

“Chapter 5: 1934: Joining the American Museum of Natural History.” Painting Actuality: Chapter 5: 1934: Joining the American Museum of Natural History. September 28, 2011. Accessed March 29, 2019. http://peabody.yale.edu/james-perry-wilson/chapter-5-joining-the-american-museum-of-natural-history.

Chasing Ice. Directed by Jeff Orlowski. Performed by James Balog. Amazon Prime Video. Accessed April 4, 2019. https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Ice-James-Balog/dp/B00CNL78JA/ref=tmm_aiv_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=.

AMNH Photo Studio. Elephant Group, View from Mezzanine Level, Akeley Hall of African Mammals, January 9, 2009. January 9, 2009. Historic Halls of the American Museum of Natural History, American Museum of Natural History, New York. In AMNH Research Library | Digital Special Collections. 2019. Accessed April 8, 2019. http://lbry-web-007.amnh.org/digital/items/show/66809.

Gorilla, Male, Diorama, Akeley Memorial Hall of African Mammals. Photographic Collection, American Museum of Natural History, New York. In AMNH Research Library | Digital Special Collections. 2019. Accessed April 8, 2019. http://lbry-web-007.amnh.org/digital/items/show/40811.

Kirk, Jay. Kingdom Under Glass. 1st ed. New York, NY: Henry Holt and, 2010.

“The Development of Natural History Museums.” Nature News. Accessed March  22, 2019. https://www.nature.com/articles/119549a0.

acknowledgements

Thanks to Leila Nadir and Bob Minckley from the University of Rochester for being interviewed in this podcast.

Thank you to Melissa Mead at Rare Books and Special Collections and the University of Rochester.

Also a special thanks to Mai Reitmeyer at the American Museum of Natural History Special Collections for letting us look through their documents.

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