Before the age of YouTube and Instagram, public audiences learned about the happenings at the Smithsonian in newspapers, on the radio, and via public television programming. Between 1982 and 1989, TV viewers could catch up with the Smithsonian’s latest exhibitions and research activities through short video features in a series called Here At The Smithsonian.
This month, we’re taking trips to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
In 1982, keeper Melanie Bond gave audiences a tour of the new Great Ape House, which opened one year earlier. Bond, who had worked at the Zoo since 1973, explained that the animals felt safer and more comfortable in their newly designed spaces, where they had more choices about the extent in which they could interact with visitors. One of the Zoo’s most popular animals, Tomoka, a male lowland gorilla who was born at the National Zoo in 1961, is seen sitting at the window, where he interacted with visitors through the glass. In the clip, Bond also demonstrated how she used sign language to communicate with the Zoo’s orangutans.
Next, we’re headed to Front Royal, Virginia, home to the National Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, then called the Smithsonian’s Conservation and Research Center. After a decade-long search for a captive breeding facility for animals without the stress of visitors, the Zoo established the Institute in 1975. Six years later, Here at the Smithsonian audiences were invited on a tour, which featured endangered species such as the golden lion tamarin, the tree kangaroo, and beyond.
Tune in on the last Tuesday of each month to explore more video features from Here at the Smithsonian. Head to our YouTube playlist for even more recently-uploaded clips from the series.
- Office of Telecommunications Productions, 1982-1989, Accession 00-132, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- National Zoological Park history, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “Here at the Smithsonian: Celebrating Earth Optimism with Some Community Science” by Kira Sobers, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “Here at the Smithsonian: Showcasing Women’s Expertise” by Hannah Byrne, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- “Introducing Here at the Smithsonian” by Kira Sobers, The Bigger Picture, Smithsonian Institution Archives