Having grown up with dogs, cats, a rabbit, and the occasional fish or two, naturally I consider myself an animal lover. Like many folks who fall into this category, my love of creatures is not limited to domestic varieties, but extends well beyond to animals of sea, sky, and land, particularly exotic animals such as giraffes and elephants. When I planned my outdoor wedding, I mused how fabulous it would be to have a giraffe meandering about the large, wooded yard—perhaps just a calf to ensure it fit the space appropriately. Needless to say, that idea did not come to fruition (my mother was not amused), but I did have the opportunity to meet and feed a charming giraffe named Oliver in the days leading up to the event.
The fascination with exotic animals is not new; for generations people have enjoyed animal-themed toys and play sets, many examples of which can be seen in The Strong’s Play Pals exhibit. Early Noah’s Ark sets contained an array of wooden animals, no doubt a time-consuming process when it involved carving each animal one at a time, so a new tactic was devised. Using a lathe, a craftsman could create a silhouette of each animal in a ring shape, and then simply slice off pieces with ease to result in consistent design, dimension, and quality. I first saw one of these shaped rings a few years ago when I joined the Collections Team at The Strong, but find that I am still impressed each and every time I look at this unique (and efficient!) approach.