World of Darkness.

by Tim Soter

World of Darkness – Bronx Zoo – (1969 – 2009)

This week after forty years, the World of Darkness exhibit at the Bronx Zoo was permanently closed.

The World of Darkness, designed by Morris Ketchum, Jr. & Associates, opened in 1969 on the site where the zoo’s Rocking Stone restaurant stood until 1942.  The exhibit was the world’s first major exhibit of nocturnal animals; among them: bats, possum, bushbabies and night monkeys.  Darkroom-like lights (“red light experiments” as they Zoo billed them) illuminated the animals inside this windowless curving structure.  Attendees moved along in almost complete darkness; the exhibit reversed day and night so that visitors could see the animals in their active nocturnal state. Now, the animals will be relocated to other Zoos throughout the country. The exhibitions was closed due to budget cutbacks to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) which has affected all five facilities in New York: Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium.

I went there yesterday to see it one last time and I got there  to find that it had closed the day before.  Even the staff weren’t notified in advance as to the exact day – almost everyone was caught off guard.  I almost cried.  Nothing else looks like this dark slabbed windowless fortress.  It is truly extraordinary.

Thanks to Daniel for his valuable historical knowledge of the exhibit.