Sunday, 15 May 2011

The politics of Display in museum culture and zoology.

Nigel Rothfel's book Savages and Beasts traces the origins of the modern zoo in the efforts of nineteenth century German animal entrepreneur Carl Hagenbeck, shedding light on how seemingly enlightened ideas about the role of zoos and the nature of animal captivity developed out of the simple business of placing exotic creatures on public display. Within the book The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman notes how Lutz Heck, a personal friend and also the director of the Berlin Zoo is interested in saving the Warsaw zoo because of his interest and the Nazi policies of eugenics and preservation of species such as the pryzwalski horses which the Warsaw zoo owned, and which survived the bombing, (of the type displayed in the Lascaux caves) and the aurochs or tur, and then extinct tarpan species which roamed in the Bialowieza forest in the strip of land between Poland and Russia, what would be modern day Belarus. Indeed, the mythology surrounding the forest, or the wild is not far removed in this story, in fact it is just behind a lot of the events. Simon Schama mentions in his book, Landscape and Memory, about the Bialowiecza forest and the mythology surrounding the the wild bison, known to the Poles as the tur and to the Germans as the aurochs. The Warsaw zoo was caught up in the politics of all of this public and private politics and passions.

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