Thursday, April 8, 2010

Zoo’s history to be researched with Bristol University

Zoo’s history to be researched with Bristol University

The history of Bristol Zoo Gardens is due to be researched by students from the University of Bristol following a collaboration between the two organisations.

The doctoral awards have been announced ahead of the Zoo’s 175th anniversary next year. As part of the anniversary celebrations, the Zoo has launched a project to capture peoples’ memories of the Zoo from years gone by. The aim is to create an oral history archive to preserve peoples’ memories of the Zoo for future generations.

The two University students will work with the Zoo to undertake research into the Zoo's history, making use of its rich but under-exploited in-house archives.

The Zoo is the oldest provincial zoo in the world and one of relatively few zoos established in the nineteenth century that remains on its original site, yet there is little published literature on the Zoo's social and animal histories.

Two PhD studentships will provide material and insights to enrich visitors’ experience and deepen understanding of the Zoo's history for both the local community and those working in the fields of social and environmental history.

The partnership and the students' work will be guided by Professor Peter Coates and Dr Timothy Cole of the University of Bristol, and Mr Simon Garrett and Dr Christoph Schwitzer of Bristol Zoo.

Professor Coates said: “Bristol Zoo Gardens and the University of Bristol have extensive collaborative experience through many joint research projects in the biological and veterinary sciences, and the Bristol Natural History Consortium. These studentships allow the Zoo to extend its links with the University by branching out into the arts and humanities for the first time.”

Simon Garrett, Head of Learning at Bristol Zoo, said: "Collaborating with Bristol University on this important project on the Zoo's history is a fantastic opportunity, particularly as the Zoo celebrates its 175th anniversary next year.

"Bristol Zoo is such an integral part of the city’s past that we do not want to lose vital information and memories. There are already countless stories and events from the early days of the Zoo that have been lost forever, and we want to preserve as much of the Zoo’s magic as possible for the future. Understanding our origins and history, and how we have progressed to become a leader in our field today, is vital to continuing our development into the future as an integral part of a city rich in natural history, and as part of the wider conservation movement."

The Zoo has set up a dedicated email address ( for members of the public who would like to send in their memories, photos or any other archival material, for the history project. Alternatively, you can write to Simon Garrett, the learning department, Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3HA.

The University research project will last for three years. As well as joining forces with the Zoo, Bristol University will also be partnering with Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust, with two researchers working to study the historic landscape of Bristol’s famous Victorian garden cemetery.

For more information about Bristol Zoo Gardens visit the website at  or phone 0117 974 7300.

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