In 1982 Mark Rosenthal conducted an interview with Marlin Perkins. It was the first and only interview anyone had done with Director Perkins talking about his ample zoo experience and history. The video of the interview sat on a shelf until 1995 when Mark shared this interview with Loretta Caravette. Mark expressed his interest in conducting more interviews with those directors who had made an impact in the zoo and aquarium world.
Loretta agreed that it was a valuable part of zoo history, but her wish was to develop a relevant resource for anyone to use who was interested in zoos and aquariums. This would enable those interested to be able to learn first-hand about these pioneers’ experiences. The resource would be complete with transcriptions that were indexed and search-able, including time coded reference points and printed in a hard bound book. The books would be available to any and all libraries. The actual interview videos would be accessible via a dedicated website.
The Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive was born!
Technology is now available to make The Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive just that — accessible and global.
The Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive aims to show the trials and triumphs of the industry through the accounts of the pioneers who made that history possible. These zoo and aquarium directors, veterinarians, curators, and other prominent figures were the ones who took the modern zoo from cages and concrete to environments sensitive to the needs and wants of the animals. The power that comes from listening to someone speak, to see their face, watch their expressions—hear their stories first hand, is something that cannot be duplicated. That is why this project is a video archive: to preserve these extraordinary links to the past for generations to come. This project is the first and only one of its kind.
The partners started locally, interviewing the former directors of the Lincoln Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo and the Shedd Aquarium. From that simple beginning they were able to secure sponsorships for interviews conducted in Topeka, Kansas, San Francisco, California and New York. They conducted their first international interview with Dr. Christian Schmidt, Director Emeritus of the Frankfurt Zoo in Germany while he was at an international conference in Orlando, Florida.
Foundations have given their support as well as individuals and corporations. But there is still much to be done. By sponsoring an interview, giving for transcribing and indexing, or supporting the development of the website, you are ensuring that these valuable pioneers will be part of a future that will last for generations.
These leaders’ experience and careers will never be duplicated by anyone today. Through the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive one can see them as they share their career path, what they did and how they did it. It is an investment in the future because we should never go back but forward with the support and knowledge of the past with us.