Ahead of its 200th anniversary, London Zoo is asking people who might have old objects from the zoo to contribute to a new exhibition it is planning.

Archival image of London Zoo keeper Wally Styles beside a Bactrian camel; London Zoo, 1929 (c) Bond / ZSL.

The Zoological Society, the organisation behind what was to become London Zoo, was founded in April 1826 and was able to buy a small triangle of land just inside Regents Park. Just two years later, in April 1828, they opened the world’s oldest scientific zoo.

It wasn’t open to the public though — this was a scientific endeavour — and it wasn’t until 1840 that the public was allowed inside, and only on Sundays, for payment for one shilling.

Today, the London Zoo is rather larger, rather more expensive to visit, and open on rather more days of the week.

To mark its bicentenary, though, the zoo plans an exhibition and is asking the public to dig through old boxes to see if they have anything suitable for the zoo to show. London Zoo is asking the public to submit everything from vintage zoo toys and historic tickets to correspondence and maps, enriching the charity’s understanding of its own history.

Notable artefacts already in the Zoos’ archive include a limited-edition bear-shaped soap from the 1940s, produced by Cullingfords to mark the birth of baby Brumas, the polar bear at London Zoo, zookeeper uniforms from decades past, and a decorated ostrich egg, painted by an unknown artist, to mark the opening of Whipsnade Zoo in 1931.

The collection, History Hive, will culminate in an exhibition in 2026, and those who have contributed their stories and ephemera will be invited to the exhibition’s launch.

Submissions to ZSL’s History Hive can be made here.


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  1. David Styles says:

    That’s my Grandad, he was head keeper of ungulates. My Father was head keeper of small mammals also at London Zoo.

  2. John Springham says:

    My Grandfather, Charles Hitchcock, was Head Keeper of the old Lion House and I had numerous family members who worked at the Zoo. I lived there through my teenage years

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