The Museum of London is pleased to announce that it has acquired the well-known sign erected by ZSL London Zoo on their Giraffe House in April 2020. It has been collected as part of the museum’s ongoing Collecting COVID initiative.
The giant, light-up, blue wooden sign featuring two red hearts and white ‘NHS’ lettering was created by ZSL as a symbolic ‘thank you’ to all NHS staff on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The sign was deliberately positioned on the Giraffe House to be in the direct line of sight of paramedics who were parking outside the locked-down zoo during their lunch breaks.
The sign quickly became widely known through the ITV documentary ‘London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year’ and by local residents stopping to have socially-distanced photos taken with it and the giraffes throughout both lockdowns of 2020. The sign was finally removed from the Giraffe House prior to London Zoo’s recent reopening on 15 April 2021 and officially donated by Kathryn England, Chief Operating Officer ZSL London Zoo to the Museum of London.
Beatrice Behlen, Senior Curator at the Museum of London, said: “We are very honoured that ZSL London Zoo have donated their symbolic NHS sign to our ongoing Collecting COVID project. Throughout the last year, while London Zoo’s doors were closed, the sign was a source of great camaraderie for the local community and front-line NHS workers. It represents the many messages and acts of support that came from so many of London’s institutions to uplift, provide hope and connect Londoners over the past year. As part of our permanent London Collection the sign will help tell the story of London and Londoners from this time in a new and imaginative way, which is a priority as we look ahead to the opening of the new Museum of London in West Smithfield in the coming years.”
Kathryn England, Chief Operating Officer for ZSL London Zoo said: “We wanted to show our gratitude and respect for the NHS, in what was a life changing year for so many of us. The idea, and location for the sign on London Zoo’s iconic Giraffe House, was inspired by the paramedics we saw parking outside the Zoo’s gates on their hasty lunch breaks – so we installed this tribute at their favourite sandwich spot to brighten their day. We were so pleased to see it so quickly become a highlight for other Londoners out for their daily exercise – it became something of an emblem for London’s resilience to the pandemic and meant that even when closed, the zoo was able to bring a smile to people’s faces. As London’s zoo, we are absolutely delighted that this sign will now have a home with another one of London’s great institutions, the Museum of London.”
The Collecting COVID project, first announced in April 2020, is an active collecting project that seeks to reflect Londoners’ lives during the time of the COVID-19 crisis in order to keep a record to ensure future generations of Londoners will be able to learn about and understand this extraordinary period. The ZSL London Zoo sign will be considered for potential display in the museum’s future new home in West Smithfield in the coming years.