Thursday, February 22, 2018
From the News: Giant Mexican Olmec head installed in the Henry Doorly Zoo's jungle
Today, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo welcomed a new resident to its world-famous Lied Jungle. Unlike all of its neighbors, it's not an animal. The 2000 pound statue, known as El Rey, is meant to celebrate Omaha's relationship with its sister city, Xalapa, Mexico.
With features like this, there is always the question of the role of the item in the collection. Does it merely decorative? Or does it serve an educational purpose? At best, a feature can be an excellent learning device. I saw an excellent Mayan sculpture in an art museum of a shaman in the act of transforming himself into a jaguar. Such a sculpture, added as a compliment to a jaguar display, would serve to highlight the importance of jaguars in Meso-American culture.
At worst case scenario, such a display could be culturally offensive. If a display were seen to desecrate a religious setting, or seen as mocking a culture, that, of course, would be bad.
More often, a display would likely be like Omaha's El Rey - a piece of the landscape.