Vintage Zoo Books Show Shift In Human Behavior: IMAGES


The Smithsonian Institution Libraries recently put together a collection of zoo pamphlets from days gone by, and as Live Science notes, the imagery, including pictures of elephants giving small children a ride and chimps being carted around in a baby carriage, show how humans have over the past five decades changed how zoos operate:

The vintage materials reveal how much zoos have changed from amusement-park-like attractions to more educational, conservation-minded institutions. A guide to Great Britain's Clifton Zoological Gardens from 1912, for example, shows prison-like animal enclosures encased in heavy bars... The New York Zoological Park guide, published in 1905, has photographs of orangutans sitting around a table draped with a white tablecloth, mimicking a family dinner.

"Some of the photographs of animal enclosures, restraint devices and mock theatrics, while unsettling to some, are an important part of the history of human-animal relations," wrote Alvin Hutchinson, the head of information services at Smithsonian Libraries, in an introduction to the collection.

I've included some images AFTER THE JUMP, and you can check out the whole collection at the SIL website.








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  1. All zoos suck. Period.

    Posted by: peterparker | May 31, 2012 11:52:35 AM

  2. Zoos are a necessary evil. Without them these animals become abstract ideas and then they are basically as real as unicorns or the easter bunny. We need zoos because they remind us of a world we do not live in, but we need to protect anyway. The majority of people will walk through a zoo and be entertained, but there will also be people who go to a zoo and become inspired.

    As somebody who has worked in the education department for a zoo and a marine park, I understand why somebody would say "zoos suck". But there's a whole other side to this argument and it's important to be more open minded about them.

    Posted by: RGB | May 31, 2012 1:57:06 PM

  3. I agree with RGB, but some zoos are repugnant. I've been to two, one in Germany (!) and the other in India, that were disgusting. Even the SF zoo has faults, as does the DC one. If not well funded, they're hardly sanctuaries. I can't go to many. Seeing anxious animals wondering why they're confined is upsetting.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 31, 2012 2:02:20 PM

  4. sea-theme parks suck. tiny-crappy zoos suck

    if you can't effectively replicate something that resembles a natural habitat, you shouldn't exist.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | May 31, 2012 2:07:08 PM

  5. Littlekiwi is to stupid to realize this is about the past compared with the present. This is not about his PETA obsession at all. This is about man's changing relationship to animals. This is about sociology, not some demented crusade to give animals human rights. Animals are there for us to do with as we please. It is good from a scientific viewpoint that zoos have become a thing about education and preservation of species; that is what a normal well-adjusted person would take from this story. Even a poorly adjusted weirdo would take that away from this story. Only a complete idiot infatuated by PETA would take such a twisted take on this. Good to know Kiwi is being normal.

    Posted by: NullNaught | May 31, 2012 3:41:40 PM

  6. Zoos are not evil- it's safe way for most people who do not live near jungles to observe these wild animals some of which would probably be extinct if it wasn't for zoos.

    Posted by: jaragon | May 31, 2012 5:40:43 PM

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