The Akeley Hall of African Mammals showcases large mammals of Africa. At the center is a freestanding group of eight elephants, poised as if to charge, surrounded by 28 habitat dioramas. These provide a unique glimpse of the diverse topography of Africa and its wildlife, from the Serengeti Plain to the waters of the Upper Nile to the volcanic mountains of what was once the Belgian Congo.

As in all of the Museum’s habitat dioramas, each scene is a re-creation based on the meticulous observations of scientists in the field in the early 20th century and the on-site sketches and photographs of the artists who accompanied them. They feature animals set in a specific location, cast in the light of a particular time of day.

In some instances, represented locales became national parks or wildlife sanctuaries. For example, Carl Akeley—the naturalist, explorer, photographer, sculptor, and taxidermist who first conceived of this hall in 1909 and collected many of the specimens for it—successfully petitioned the King of Belgium to create the first national park in Africa.