Week 1: What makes a zoo a zoo?
Personal menageries and collections existed before, but it was only in the early 19th century that the word “zoo” entered our language and society. This new spectacle now attracts millions of people. The animals, captive and bred, reveal our transforming attitudes in an urban and industrial world.
Week 2: Habitats and inhabitants
Animals arrived from everywhere on earth. Pits, cages, circuses, Modernist monuments and larger domains became home. Hunter-seekers supplied the European zoos, and keepers tried to keep the animals alive. Zoo landscapes became international. Visitors learned what to expect—and what not to—from an institution that espoused conservation, research, education, and discovery.
Week 3: Entertainment
Zoos display the exotic. The platypus, the kangaroo, the orca and even humans qualified for exhibition. Zoos exist to satisfy the omnivorous curiosity of its audience.
Week 4: Darwin and destiny
Zoos became an extended family, but humans sought to maintain difference. There were other important redefinitions, but sentience was very important. What was the difference between humans and animals? Do chimpanzees have memory, do they use tools—do they think? Do dolphins, orcas, octopuses belong in zoos?
Week 5: Personhood and people
Can animals actually have rights? They have suffered in the past because they lack human identity. We have habitually punished them for breaking human rules and practices. The long route to “non-human persons” may be a way to rational treatment.
Week 6: Future zoo
Global habitat deterioration endangers wild species. Captive animals have an increasingly limited gene pool. The “frozen zoos” of cryopreservation have already started collecting and breeding animals in anticipation. De-extinction will dramatically change the role of the zoo.