Kingdom Under Glass

Kingdom Under Glass

A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals

Book - 2010
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A sweeping historical narrative of the life of Carl Akeley, the famed explorer and taxidermist who changed the way Americans viewed the conservation of the natural world

During the golden age of safaris in the early twentieth century, one man set out to preserve Africa's great beasts. In this epic account of an extraordinary life lived during remarkable times, Jay Kirk follows the adventures of the brooding genius who revolutionized taxidermy and created the famed African Hall we visit today at New York's Museum of Natural History. The Gilded Age was drawing to a close, and with it came the realization that men may have hunted certain species into oblivion. Renowned taxidermist Carl Akeley joined the hunters rushing to Africa, where he risked death time and again as he stalked animals for his dioramas and hobnobbed with outsized personalities of the era such as Theodore Roosevelt and P. T. Barnum. In a tale of art, science, courage, and romance, Jay Kirk resurrects a legend and illuminates a fateful turning point when Americans had to decide whether to save nature, to destroy it, or to just stare at it under glass.

Publisher: New York : H. Holt, 2010.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780805092820
Branch Call Number: 590.92 Kirk 12/2010
Characteristics: 387 p. :,ill. ;,25 cm.


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Nov 18, 2018

I am so fascinated by the story of Carl Akerley, who went from hunting animals to trying to save them. But this writer uses a novelization style I just don't care for in biographies or non-fiction history books. So, when you read it, it comes across as a work of fiction because the writer speaks as if he knows what Carl Akerley is thinking at various points. While the writer cites references for much of the work, he does admit to taking license on some feelings he attributes to Carl Akerley, based on his research.

Again, it's likely all accurate, I just don't care for this style of writing that relies on a flashy writing style to make the story exciting. I don't think Carl Akerley's story needed that boost. It was plenty exciting in its own right.

I should add I did not finish this book. I could not get past the first chapter due to the writing style. Then I skimmed over parts and looked at the bibliography to find other sources.

Sep 07, 2011

An amazing read. Well researched and annotated, this book brings to our attention the life and career of Carl Akeley.

The author uses many resources to deduce what most likely transpired on Akeley's journeys and gives the reader a fresh look into the story. You can almost feel as if you're traveling along in search of elephants, mountain gorillas and experiencing it all yourself.

Looked at today as the father of modern taxidermy and display design, Akeley was a complex man, not without significant warts, that make him all the more intriguing. His pioneering work on Jumbo the elephant, of P.T. Barnum fame, along with development of the painstakingly accurate natural displays to house the specimens he collected. allow us to look at a time when killing of wild animals to put them on display in museums in glass walled dioramas to allow the common man to experience their majesty was acceptable scientific practice.

But that's not all. Later in his life he was instrumental in the establishment of a nature preserve in the Congo to preserve the mountain gorillas and became an advocate to preserve nature in the wild and not in museums.

He also invented a movie camera that that was better than those of George Eastman (of Eastman-Kodak fame) allowing the capture on film of the natural worlds wonders.

A man of many talents Carl Akeley's life and adventures offer insights into nature preservation and turn of the century America.


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