Evansville zoo exhibit takes look to the past

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Mesker Park's history hangs from the ceiling and on the walls inside the new Kley Exhibit Hall at Indiana's oldest zoo on Evansville's northwest side.

The book, A Pictorial History of Mesker Park Zoo, comes to life for visitors who venture into the Timeless Treasure exhibit.

Inside large glass doors and to the left, an Evansville Press photo from the 1920s shows Kay, the zoo's first elephant, being given the "royal welcome."

Photos highlighting construction of the zoo's koi pond follow.

Enter the '40s and '50s.

The zoo's first penguins and Bunny the elephant share that section of the wall.

In the back left corner of the 4,000-square-foot space, a vertical photo of Bunny standing on its hind legs hangs on the wall.

Amy Schneider's 4-year-old daughter hopped up on a stepping stool in front of the photo to pose with Bunny.

Schneider snapped a quick shot.

"We've seen it a couple of times," Schneider said about the exhibit.

She said she takes in a little bit of the exhibit each time she visits.

"It's kind of hard with small children to see everything. They get bored and want to move on," she told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/1i85rUF ).

Schneider and her two daughters, the other 15-months-old, spend many weekends at the zoo, especially now that the weather is warming up, she said.

"There's an educational value to it," she said.

The Evansville native tried to remember the first time she visited the zoo. She said it would have been in the early '80s.

"I was definitely little," Schneider said. "I remember always liking the monkeys."

On the right side of the room, the '60s and '70s take center stage. A few more steps the '80s and '90s section highlights the arrival of giraffes, the Lemur Forest and the zoo's Discovery Center.

Since 2000, Amazonia opened and a new entrance was constructed.

Marketing Director Abigail Adler said the exhibit, which celebrates the zoo's 86-year history and provides a glimpse of future plans, drew inspiration from the shared passion of many zoo employees.

"So far visitors have really enjoyed exploring the exhibit," Adler said. "For some, it has been very emotional as it transports them to the zoo of their childhood and memories with loved ones who have passed."

She said she hopes more members of the community visit the exhibit and enjoy the walk down memory lane.

Other features inside the exhibit, which will remain open until August, include a Donna the Hippo Memorial and "Zoo Directors through the Years." Antiques, such as a machine with a sign that reads: "Feed the animals crackers 25 cents," rest at the back of the room.

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com
 

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