A Digital Exhibition on Zoo Exhibits in the United States: The Impact of Public Opinion on Post-Civil War Zoo and Animal Exhibit Development Within the United States

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Southern New Hampshire University
This project explores the influence of public opinion on the development and evolution of zoos and animal exhibits. The main focus will be on the “Big Four” - four oldest accredited zoos in the United States: Philadelphia Zoo, Central Park Zoo in NYC, Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island. Four animal species will be examined to study zoo and exhibit development since the end of the Civil War in 1865. The animal species are elephants, orcas, red wolves, and timber rattlesnakes. These animal species provide historic examples of positive and negative animal care and species outcomes within captivity. Additionally, zoo and exhibit development progress will be supported with evidence directly from numerous zookeepers’ personal experiences, detailed Keepers Corner in the digital exhibition. This project acknowledges that scientific and medical advancements have lent significant changes to current zoo missions and exhibit design, yet research points to public opinions about animal welfare having historically been the driving factor. The primary sources used are news articles, photographs, and personal testimonials. Secondary sources include journal articles, books, and dissertations. Source categories found focus on cultural, social and political lenses, while acknowledging that other lenses are present in the research but addressing source categories from the particular focal lenses.