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date: 20 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Zoos have a significant appeal to customers in the Experience Economy. At first glance, it seems rather obvious that one of the main appeals of zoos is to provide visitors with the opportunity of experiencing living animals. But how essential are live animals really for the zoo experience? Taking an archaeological approach, the chapter argues that live animals may be less essential for the visitors’ zoo experience than is often assumed, not the least by themselves, and that zoos can succeed in providing visitors with engaging experiences and a sense of wildlife without living animals. Things, in the form of material animals, can allow zoo visitors to experience animalness which is what zoos to a great extent are all about. It is also argued that living animals in zoos may in turn be reified, acquiring thingliness. It emerges therefore on the one hand that things and animals are nearly interchangeable in zoos and on the other hand that the zoo visitors’ satisfaction is dependent on what they experienced in their minds and with their senses (animalness, reified animals), not what they believe or say they have experienced (living animals). The chapter also demonstrates how an archaeological approach can help in understanding recent changes in zoo design in relation to trends connected to the economy at large.

Keywords: zoos, design, experience economy, animalness, thingliness, visitor experience, material culture

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