“Appeal for London Zoo artefacts in anticipation of bicentenary exhibition”

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the charity behind the London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, has announced a public appeal to gather memories, artefacts, and stories associated with the organization. This initiative is in preparation for the upcoming anniversary celebration and a new exhibition in 2026.

The project, called History Hive, seeks a wide range of items, from vintage zoo toys and historic tickets to correspondence and maps. These objects will be included in the exhibition commemorating ZSL’s 200th anniversary in 2026, alongside artefacts from the organization’s existing archive. The goal is to showcase ZSL’s impact on animal care, conservation, and society as a whole, as the charity behind the modern concept of ‘zoo’ and ‘aquarium.’

Some noteworthy items already in ZSL’s archive include a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, old zookeeper uniforms, and a decorated ostrich egg that marked the opening of Whipsnade Zoo in 1931.

In addition to physical objects, ZSL is also encouraging individuals with memories of the organization and its zoos to contribute to the Oral History Archive. This archive will preserve first-hand testimonies from those who have been part of ZSL’s history.

Natasha Wakely, ZSL’s Archivist, emphasized the significance of the History Hive project in uncovering the objects and material culture that will bring ZSL’s 200 years of history to life. Contributors of stories and ephemera will be invited to the exhibition’s launch in 2026.

Alongside the exhibition, 2026 will feature an array of interactive displays, talks, and trails showcasing the charity’s story and the public support that enables its conservation efforts. This comprehensive program aims to engage visitors and highlight the vital role of organizations like ZSL in protecting wildlife and habitats.

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