To complement a BBC drama about Chester Zoo's origins I helped create an experience that holds the history and memories of both the zoo and its loyal visitors too.
Made at Code Computerlove in 2014 with Neil McLean (development).
It was mid 2014 and the BBC were busy readying Our Zoo, a drama about George Mottershead, the founder of Chester Zoo. To take advantage of the forthcoming surge of interest in its history the zoo were creating a campaign that highlighted a handful of visitor memories from the park’s opening to present day. They needed an online presence to hold this material and to encourage other visitors to share their stories.
But when I got access to the zoo's full archive I saw its true wealth; there was a mountain of historical documents, photographs, and videos that through research I knew the zoo's devoted audience were eager to get their hands on. This website was the perfect place to hold them.
Opening up this colossal history would help provide a compelling reason for visitors to add their own memories – so they could become a part of it. But navigating it all could have been overwhelming, so I made the experience easier to digest by making each decade feel unique.
Using old flyers and brochures for reference, I treated each era of the site so it reflected the style of the years it related to. So memories from the 1950s were housed within a 50s-style Chester Zoo site, and so on back and forward through time.
This gave fans an unexpected opportunity to feel like they were visiting the zoo back in those days (or at least its website, if the internet existed in the 1930s!).
Launched alongside the show with a tease of material from each decade, the site was then updated each week with content relating to the stories and events from each new episode (along with more recent memories too).
Visitors flocked to the site, and I’m delighted that they added over 600 of their own memories to the timeline, whilst interacting thousands of times with content posted to the zoo’s Facebook page. I’m proud that Me, You and the Zoo remains a key part of Chester Zoo's online experience to date.