Do zoos do a better job at attracting a more diverse audience than museums? Some argue yes, and for a variety of reasons. At zoos, there are animals from all around the world, so people don’t feel that their culture or background is being excluded. Others say that the environment of zoos has been historical more flexible. No one ever tells you, “shhh – quiet in the African Animals area!” I would argue that zoos do a better job at giving the visitor a more flexible experience, i.e. you can bring your own stroller and stock it up with food that your family desires. I put this question to the test at a recent visit to one of the top five zoos in our nation (according to the USA Travel Guide).
While in the Dallas area, I did what the Texans do, and took a trip to the Fort Worth Zoo. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve visited a zoo and I was curious to see what type of visitor was present and check out the differences and similarities between exhibition design in museums and zoos. I’m currently working on an outdoor exhibition plan, so I also spent a fair amount of time man-handling signs and mumbling things about building materials. My favorite exhibit by far ended up being an indoor exhibit entitled, MOLA: the Museum of Living Art. This state of the art herpetarium was wonderfully designed to entice the viewer into space and keep them interested in the exhibition. Check it out!
I’d love to hear about your experiences in zoos. Do you think that they are inherently more welcoming to the visitor than museums? What can museums learn from zoos, libraries, and other informal learning environments?