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Terenja van Dijk



The cabinet of curiosities at the Antwerp Zoo

between art and science

Commissioned by the Antwerp Zoo in the context of the municipal project O dierbaar Antwerpen [2007]

Co-Curator with Giovanna Visini; exhibition scenography, direction and production of a series of films

The Zoo’s contemporary cabinet of curiosities is housed in the former dairy and shows the hidden treasures of the institution: stuffed animals, skeletons, embryos, eggs, works of art, films, numerous photos, and original 19th-century manuscripts.

This otherwise hidden cultural heritage attests to the creation and evolution of the Zoo, which is nearly 165 years old. The exhibition demonstrates that the zoo is more than just a park with animals, but also a cultural and scientific phenomenon.

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The exhibition occupied the dairy and its veranda. The dairy is a monument with wood paneling and tile walls that have been carefully maintained. The set-up of the exhibition respected the architecture and left it visible. The furniture consisted objets trouvées discovered in the attics, cellars, and hallways of the Zoo, which were then repaired, adapted, and sometimes supplemented with new elements in order to bring them up to present-day standards. The veranda is a covered exterior space where cold- and moisture-resistant objects like shells, eggs, and porcelain name-plates were shown along with polyester stuffed animals.

A wall covered with reproduction photos dealing with the Zoo show the institution as a city in a park as well as a cultural, educational, and scientific entity. A large, paper-thin transparent curtain divided the space from the Zoo and created a summery atmosphere.

Contains photography by Christophe Vrancken


Old films and a video with images of various places in the Zoo, provided a living image of both past and present. The inside of the dairy was decorated like a contemporary cabinet of curiosities and showed the history of the Zoo in a nutshell using original documents, photos, and stuffed animals in large, glass art-deco display cases, as well as a number of small video screens in which old guides and journals are leafed through, an okapi is captured in Congo, and old travel letters brought to life. A selection of art and posters depicting the Zoo over the course of its nearly 165 years of existence were hung on the walls.

At the right, fragments from:

  1. ‘Promenade au jardin Zoologique’
  2. Report on the cabinet of curiosities with Terenja van Dijk, spring 2007, Cultuurnet Exqi
  • Giovanna Visini and Terenja van Dijk
  • Terenja van Dijk
Press and communication
  • Ilse Segers – ZOO
  • Antwerpen Open
Graphic design
  • Tim Oeyen
  • Sanny Winters
Realization and processing of videos
  • Jess De Gruyter
  • Terenja van Dijk
Logistical support
  • Antwerp Zoo, under the direction of Peter Van den Eijnde, with the assitance of taxidermist Eddy Wagemakers