Thursday, February 17, 2011
Like pretty much everybody who works there, artist/naturalist Stephen Quinn grew up visiting the American Museum of Natural History. Eventually he worked his way up to senior project manager of the Department of Exhibitions, where he gets to do stuff like restore dioramas and plan expeditions, including a recent trip to the African site where Carl Akeley had shot and killed the mountain gorillas on display in the Hall of African Mammals almost 90 years before.
In a recent lecture, Quinn talked about traveling to the Virungas, where he tracked a group of mountain gorillas in Rwanda and located Akeley's grave in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today the area depicted in the diorama tells a much different story: most strikingly, there are refugee camps in what was once grasslands, and forests have been clear-cut to make way for farmland. Hundreds of gorillas no longer frolic along the slopes; those that remain owe their lives to Akeley, who was so traumatized by his own violence that he lobbied the king of Belgium to create the national park in 1925 that we visited in 2009 and Quinn visited in 2010.
What might be seen in another 90 years?