Preface On Zooligical Park Report

History is a human invention, so it tends to have an anthropocentric perspective that excludes other species. As historian Max Oelschlaeger points out, "The wild plants and animals, the web of life with which our humanity is bound, and without which the human drama could not be enacted, become bit players."1 This history of zoos and aquariums is about some of those bit players and the forgotten roles they have played in our human drama. Much of our past has been an integral part of nature: our response to environmental changes, our need for natural resources, and our need for suitable land have influenced past social, economic, and political activities usually considered strictly human endeavors. Animals and plants have been significant parts of this history, but they are often overlooked, or, if mentioned, their importance has not been fully appreciated. Animals have been important for many reasons, particularly in the past when our survival depended upon them. This history, however, is about animals as nonutilitarian resources, about animals maintained in collections for many reasons throughout the past 5,000 years — as symbols of power and prestige, as luxury and diplomatic gifts, as objects of personal pleasure, for recreational use, for educational purposes, to increase zoological knowledge, and for conservation purposes.

Animal collections of the past especially (but even modern zoos and aquariums) have not been well studied. Although the published information may be sufficient for an overview, it does not provide an in-depth understanding of these collections and the many facets of their complex evolution. Interestingly, more research has been undertaken on the history of botanical gardens, natural history museums, and circuses. There are journals specifically devoted to the history of these institutions, as well as numerous books and academic studies. In comparison, very little widely distributed, easily accessible information has been published on the history of zoos and aquariums — no journals, few books, few academic studies.

To conduct original research, one must still visit zoos and aquariums to find the necessary historical material. And even if the researcher does this, the material is often minimal or is no longer at the institution. It may be in municipal archives or in regional historical society archives. Very often, it no longer exists because it was thrown out or destroyed to make room for new paperwork. Just trying to determine the year of establishment of an institution can be difficult. Zoo and aquarium personnel often do not know where to look for historical information, letters of inquiry go unanswered, and there is no consensus on what criteria should be used to establish this date (often there is an "official" opening, but other criteria are also used, such as when the first animals were acquired).

Most zoo and aquarium histories are institutional ones with limited distribution. Relatively comprehensive histories have occasionally been published, but they have had limited distribution and use. Most are now out of print, so copies are difficult to find.2-7 A more comprehensive history of the world's zoos and aquariums from ancient times to the present has been a needed, but daunting, task. Historical research on zoos and aquariums is still at a rudimentary stage, with much of it concerned with basic information: what collections existed, when were they established, when were the structures built, how were they managed, who managed them, and what animals were collected. Nevertheless, more in-depth, analytical studies are now examining the cultural, institutional, and environmental context of zoos and aquariums. So the time is ripe for a comprehensive review of what is known about zoos and aquariums, one that provides an introduction to the subject and also highlights the published and archival resources for those who want to know more.

It is doubtful that a single individual could compile a comprehensive worldwide history of zoos and aquariums. To overcome the diversity of languages involved with such a task, to gain access to the regional information, and to understand the varied cultural influences on zoo and aquarium development, contributions for this history were sought from individuals who live in, or are from, the countries and regions about which they write. Initially, some 8 years ago, trying to find these contributors appeared to be an impossible task; however, cooperative contacts, persistence, and good fortune produced knowledgeable individuals who were able to contribute to this history.

Every effort has been made to publish a book that is as comprehensive and authoritative as possible. Such an endeavor, however, is destined to fall short. A single volume cannot completely cover 5,000 years of wild animal collections, nor can it cover every country or detail every collection. It is also difficult to provide a balance among regions, and among countries within a region. Each contributor is more familiar with particular countries and collections and less familiar with others. Even within a single country, much less within a large region, there may be an imbalance in coverage because of difficulties obtaining information.

Although the historical study of zoos and aquariums needs to be approached from many analytical and disciplinary perspectives, it still requires a practical review of basic information. Zoo and Aquarium History is intended as an overview of the current state of our knowledge, with references to the more detailed information. It is hoped that this history will stimulate the growing interest in this subject and that it will encourage further research. New research, which is very much needed, will undoubtedly produce additional facts and new insights that will improve the material in this volume. This research will also help fill the gaps that are evident in this volume. Much still needs to be learned about the collections, the individuals who managed the collections, past institutions no longer extant, and existing institutions throughout the world.

A growing interest in the history of zoos and aquariums has already become apparent. The 1980s and 1990s have been significant decades for this fledgling field of study. The Bartlett Society was founded in England on October 27, 1984 as an international society for the study of zoos and wild animal husbandry history. In 1989, the National Zoological Park held an international zoo history symposium in Washington, D.C. and later published the proceedings as New Worlds, New Animals: From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century.7 Additional institutional histories have also appeared, three professional zoo associations (American Zoo and Aquarium Association, American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, and American Association of Zoo Keepers) in the United States have appointed association historians, and the number of zoo history theses and dissertations at academic institutions has increased. If this awakening continues its momentum, the future looks bright — but only if zoos and aquariums archive their records, recognize the interest in their histories, and understand the value of their past.

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