This site is under construction. You can be part of that process by writing, telling stories, and contributing.
Zoo animals lead different lives than they would outside. What is it like–what has it been like since the early 1800s–to be in a zoo? What do they tell us about us, our society, history, and our attitudes?
This history of zoos is told in photos, reflections, and stories of zoos and their unique relationship to humans.
Please be part of this ambitious project. Read “About Us”
I don’t like animals overly much. I don’t like people much more than that. Both are fascinating, though. Animals don’t kill people often now, but people kill more animals than ever before. Individual animals and species. Sometimes we keep them in zoos because they amaze us. That elephant could crush us by accident, that tiger could eat us, that panda could cuddle us. So we keep them in cages. I grew up, and live, in a city that had a zoo until 1996. Sometimes the penguins were paraded down to the public pool to cool off in summer. A polar bear saved a kitten once, apparently. That zoo is gone, but many more live on. A local aquarium remains, despite the fate of the rest of the zoo. It fights to survive with its own past treatment of killer whales and other cetaceans. So what happened? Adolescents are now deprived of the opportunity to give cigarettes to monkeys, of course, but see the story of my former zoo echoed around the world.
I played in the ocean a lot as a kid. Then I morphed into a professor of English and art history. Landscape and politics were, and are, important issues for me. Zoos are landscapes, a special kind of landscape. Animals live in micro landscapes that we build for them. It’s a simple deed, but the politics are not.
Background: Simon Fraser University (BA), Edinburgh (MLitt), Diploma (University of BC), New York University (MA) Simon Fraser University (PhD), I’m a Professor Emeritus at Emily Carr University of Art & Design.