I watched the recorded Zoom meetup for module 6 discussion. I found the parallel comments from students very illuminating about their experiences with living history museums and zoos. It was also good to see a few more classmates faces in the mix this time so my facial recognition needs have been expanded to start to identify some of you other than just seeing a black screen with no talking head visible. It was very illuminating when the discussion went into invasive species and efforts to either eradicate them or reintroduce such as wood bison to replace the lost herds in Alaska. Josh comments about being involved for 20 years in the wood bison project by tasked with investigating the archaeological and ethnographic data to affirm the indigenous use shows how long it can take to do this project. Since Becky brought up recent movies such as the Netflix The Dig that I also saw last week, I recommend it for Josh to watch it because it’s not too much romance involved except for love of digging. Especially since the main star who is the excavator is Ralph Fiennnes who has played bad and good personages. it was a docudrama whose theme was the little guy excavator hired by a wealthy patron who comes up against the establishment of royal museum wonks who push the non-professional archeologist aside to steal the glory of discovery of a complete longboat burial. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Fiennes
On the subject of zoos I happened to watch a series on abandoned structures and found one about a zoo in Arkansas on the 1970’s. This was a bizarre theme park with the usual menagerie of local fauna like deer, racoon and bunnies, but had the unusual animals like monkeys, lions, tigers and bears, oh my, including a giraffe. It had a monkey that was smart enough to learn how to open it’s cage door and stroll around the compound at night. But the capper was when a lion that escaped and roamed free for a week causing terror amongst the locals. Nothing happened to nearby humans or their livestock since it couldn’t hunt because it had been captive its entire life in confinement and totally dependent on humans regular feeding. So after not knowing how to hunt for itself it simply wandered back to the zoo for a regular meal. The crux of the expose was that the county did not have a permit from any agency to authorize the zoo in the first place and was shut down after the lion escape. It was finally closed and a Christian family bought it sans animals to make it into a church.
I enjoyed the conversations from Becky & others about zoos and was reminded of the seminars at the Seward Aquarium for a museum conference in 2014. The keynote speaker was in the large atrium hall which had a windowed live seal exhibit that played out in back of the podium. The exhibit was in a large front glass enclosure about 20′ x 30′ by maybe 12′ deep and had rocks arranged above the water like a seal rookery so you could see the portions underwater and the rocks above. It was like wearing goggles such that the upper rookery was visible on top and underwater portion was visible below. There were only two seals in it, one of which was obviously a big bull and a smaller subordinate one swam around. In the hour it took for the keynote the most disheartening display of dominance played out like watching the movie Groundhog Day or reading the myth of Sisyphus repetitive syndrome on a video loop. The big bull would occupy the large rock in the middle while the subordinate swam around the tank waiting for the bull to take a dive. As soon as the bull jumped off the rock the smaller male hopped up only to be forcibly bumped off after the bull took his plunge. It appeared that the glass enclosed live tank display was not open to the ocean so the seals had nowhere to go but in a never ending circle of splash and dash to play the perpetual game of king on the mountain. I knew that the Sea Life Center also did animal rehab for birds and see mammals during the Valdez Oil Spill and continue that with injured animals today. These two seals in the perpetual motion tank may have been some of those rescues.
Alaska Land (aka; A-67 and now Pioneer Park) did have a measly zoo when it was operating for the centennial exposition in 1967. It was a sad affair of fenced animals consisting of caribou (or reindeer) a black bear, wolf fox and a few others. Finally when the city of Fairbanks bought it the animals were moved elsewhere. There was one very bizarre non-indigenous primate (a rhesus monkey it think) that had to be kept in a cabin near the train tracks out of viewing because it had become insane and aggressive being alone. A friend who was a staff guide remembers she had to feed it thought a barred window because it would attack humans. Finally it was taken away or euthanized. This reminded me of a monkey cage at the Chicago Zoo in the 1950’s that the captive clan inside learned how to crap in the hands and throw it at the gawking humans. The unsuccessful cure was to put plexiglass over the bars which only aided the monkeys to get more privacy because it became coated with crap blocking out the view from outside.
My experience at the San Diego Museum decades ago was a sad vision of seeing a polar bear in a concrete replica of it’s habitat on arctic sea ice with a cave to exit from so it could swim in the small pool as part of the “natural looking enclosure. It pained me to see the white giant dive into the pool to get relief from the hot summer sun over 90 degrees. The counter part facility at the aquarium on the seashore was equally distressing to see the orcas and seals do their fish food water ballet dance routine for the humans in the bleachers. But this was all before the Free Willy movement put pressure on these aquatic venues. This tragedy brought to mind the earlier children’s TV show about Flipper a captive dolphin.