Brooklyn Childrens Museum celebrated on Saturday the opening of their newest exhibit Reading Zoo, an immersive, storybook-based experience inspired by animal stories, natural habitats and highlights from the museum’s collection of animal taxidermy.

Reading Zoo is an incredible opportunity for us to activate some of the more unique objects that the museum has, objects that aren’t typically on public display, and invite visitors to take a close look, said Hana Elwell, BCM’s vice president of education and exhibits.

Photo courtesy Brooklyn Children’s Museum

While the practice of taxidermy has seen a much-publicized revival in recent years, BCMs taxidermy collection is anything but new, having been acquired between 1899 through the 1940s from Brooklyn Museum and various private donors.

Reading Zoo brings life to these specimens, allowing for close inspection of snowy owls, northern flying squirrels, a white-tailed deer and over two dozen more creatures. Animals are situated in their natural habitats, surrounded by colorful wall-sized murals that capture the breadth and scale of the freezing Arctic, the cool Northeast Coast and the lush Northeast Forest.

Knitting together the distinct ecosystems are a variety of interactive activities that invite children and caregivers to let curiosity run wild. Comfy furniture and baskets of animal books encourage learning through storytelling, creative games let kids try to match the tracks and scat that animals leave behind and lively costumes abound for imaginative free play. 

Photo courtesy Brooklyn Children’s Museum

We drew inspiration from our historic collection and collaborated with the Brower Park branch of Brooklyn Public Library, which was a wonderful way to integrate reading resources into the exhibit, said Elwell.

A central research station fills in the details about faraway places on the globe and the amazing animals found there. The exhibit will be activated with regularly scheduled storytime programs in the gallery, as well as periodic readings featuring Brooklyn-based authors.

We’re hoping that Reading Zoo will inspire caregivers and children alike to dive into a book, explore different environments where animals make their homes and spark their imaginations to create and share their own creative stories, Elwell said.

Reading Zoo is on view through October 6 during regular museum hours. Go here, for specific dates and tickets.

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