Ok, so I knew what a living collection was before going to the zoo today, because it’s one of those things that comes up in our required classes. But it had been probably a decade since I’d been to a zoo, so I hadn’t ever looked at one in the context of museum studies — though I will this coming semester because I’m taking Living Collections, which I’m now looking forward to even more!
In one of my exhibit design classes, we did talk some about the challenges that institutions with living collections might face, that those with non-living collections don’t have to deal with, and some of those came up today. For example, you have to feed the living collections, account for their care and habitats, and one thing I hadn’t thought of — you have to keep them from breeding! Or sometimes you have to worry about breeding them, depending on the animal.
Speaking of breeding, we got to see Mama Panda Bear! I know Jes was dying to see Bao Bao, the cub, but though we tried we had no such luck. I did feel very lucky that we got to even try, since Bao Bao isn’t slated to make his (her? we also learned baby pandas are hard to identify in terms of gender) public debut for another few days.
While taking a look at Bao Bao’s mom, we came across another challenge when designing long-term exhibits: labeling and narrative panels, and the use of relative time periods, specific names, and genders in the stories. At the Zoo, they’re working on staying away from that sort of language, because it makes the panels less flexible over time.
It makes sense to me; this is actually something that was partially drilled into me while writing for CNN.com (y’know, in a past life). Because the news is both transient (in that the information moves very fast) and permanent (in that it never gets deleted), especially online, news writers are trained to refrain from using relative terms (“10 years ago,” “yesterday”). So yay, another big of my old life that could translate into a new one at some point.