Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities
2011—2012 Forum on Adaptations
Associate Professor of Sociology
From Menagerie to Conservation Center: The Adaptations of City Zoos in the United States
Over the last several decades, city zoos have transformed their missions and public identities from that of old-fashioned wildlife amusement parks into conservation centers. This shift not only represents an institutional adaptation to an emergent set of global environmental priorities, but also an organizational transformation in industry and professional norms, and a sea change in the expectations and demands of zoo audiences. We have consequently seen the gradual emergence of immersive and interactive zoo exhibition, curricular programming, and conservation efforts that help zoos speak directly to issues of biodiversity, habitat and species preservation, and ecological awareness. I propose to investigate the adaptation of American city zoos from nineteenth-century menageries into centers of nature education, scientific research, and environmental conservation.