To mark our selection as a Finalist in the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015 we’re embarking on a unique and ambitious tour of the country – the Dodo Roadshow.
Beginning at Land’s End on 8 June and concluding in John O’Groats one week later, the famous Oxford Dodo will visit more than 20 museums and galleries along the way. At each stop the Dodo will ‘interview’ one of the venue’s star objects.
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery: Alfred the Gorilla
So, tell me about yourself – who are you and where do you come from?
My name is Alfred the Gorilla. I was the international celebrity ape of my day and I now keep an eye on the goings on at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. I was born in the Congo and came to live at Bristol Zoo when I was three years old. I have been in Bristol ever since.
What is it that makes you so special?
Well apart from being terribly handsome…when I arrived in Bristol in 1930 I was one of only two gorillas living in zoos in Europe and was noted for my lively personality, my excellent choice of knitwear (Bristol was rather colder than I was used to) and my accurate snowball throwing. I was the star attraction at the Zoo and, during World War II, 20,000 postcards of me were sold in just one year!
I came to the Museum for my retirement in 1948. I’m still popular to this day, especially after I mysteriously disappeared for four days in 1956 – I escaped with some student friends and got up to all sorts of mischief before they safely returned me to the Museum, only needing my hair brushed. During my time at the Museum I’ve inspired film-makers, artists, writers, conservationists and scientists with my unique story, and continue to entertain the people of Bristol to this day.
Who looks after you in this place?
Rhian and Bonnie, my two curators keep an eye on me and all my animal friends at the Museum. They make sure I’m always looking my best – I’ve been in Bristol over 80 years but I don’t look a day over 20! Our lovely visitor assistants make sure my fans can easily find me in the Museum and of course the lovely people of Bristol look after me too, they support the Museum which, in turn, cares for me.
Do you remember life before the Museum?
Yes of course, I remember the Congolese lady who looked after me as a baby in the rainforest, my travels through Europe where I stayed in Holland, my heyday as a young famous gorilla at the Zoo and the terrible time during the World War II. I remember how the people of Bristol welcomed me into their city and I am reminded of their kindness every time someone comes to say hello at the Museum.
What does the future hold for you?
Well, I know I will be cared for here at the Museum for many more years to come and hope I can still inspire the people of Bristol for another 80 years at least. Despite my senior years, I’m a thoroughly modern gorilla and regularly tweet @alfred_gorilla, so you can follow me to see what other adventures I have in store!