Full title: Rothfels, N. 'Preserving History: Collecting and Displaying in Carl Akeley's In Brightest Africa', in Thorsen, L.E., Rader, K.A. and Dodd, A. (eds.), Animals on Display: the Creaturely in Museums, Zoos, and Natural History (Pennsylvania University Press, 2013), pp. 58-73.


Rothfels compares Akeley's text with similar 'hunting' memoirs from the period to argue that in fact, Akeley's work confounds our expectations of the genre. Whereas Texts such as Samuel White Baker's The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon (1854) or Theodore Roosevelt's African Game Trails (1910) glorify the hunt, Akeley's text, Rothfels argues, is concerned with preserving life rather than attaining mastery over it:

'In the end, what distinguishes Akeley's work... was his awareness of the possibility of tragedy and injustice in the death of an animal and his effort to preserve life and not simply celebrate the moment of death. However much, then, his memoir echoes themes in the writings of Baker, Roosevelt, and others, the account remains fundamentally different.' (68)

This interest in preservation, Rothfels suggests, fed into Akeley's taxidermy work:

'Akeley appears to have been convinced that the days of the large game animals of the world were numbered, just as he was convinced that he had the ability to preserve them for the future in his artistic taxidermy... Working almost entirely with just the surface of the animal, and placing that over a frame and a form that would somehow bring that surface back to life, Akeley sought to freeze a moment of an animal's life, to save that animal and even the species from their apparently inevitable absolute detruction.' (68-69)