Wednesday, July 28, 2010

London Zoo and Library

Today we went to the zoo! I was delighted to realize I still remember quite a bit about animals. Particularly memorable were the otters, who were crying to be fed and looking around eagerly for someone to feed them. Also memorable was something I overheard: two British women were talking to each other when they came to the armadillo tank. The armadillo was nowhere to be seen. One woman said to the other, "what's an armadillo?" To which her friend responded, "it's like a porcupine". I couldn't help but smile to myself.

After the zoo visit, we went to the Zoological Society of London's library. Needless to say, this was the first time I had ever visited a zoo library and I found it fascinating. While it initially focused on maintaining a collection of the society's publications and meetings' minutes, it is now one of the largest zoological libraries in the world. The library is primarily used by members of the society, zoo employees, and the public. In addition to records relating to the zoo and zoological society, their collection also includes journals from zoos around the world, books on zoos, and books on specific zoo animals. They also collect zoo guides, annual reports, conference reports and stud books (the captive breeding information for different animals, used to help maintain genetic diversity). I was surprised to learn that people come to the zoo library to do genealogy research; because the library maintains staff records, people can look up to see if one their relatives worked at the zoo and what they did there.

While at the library, we were able to talk to a man named John Edwards, who had written a book on the early photography of zoo animals. The library has in its collection 12,000 glass plates of original early photographs from as far back as 1860 (some of these we had already seen images of because they had been reproduced for gift shop items). Other interesting items we saw at the library included a letter from Charles Darwin asking the society for help, and a painting they have on the wall that's from 1629. The painting stand out in particular because in it there is a dodo bird that was actually painted from life.

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