March 15, 2008. Twelve years ago today (March 15, 1996) "The Tapir Gallery" opened on the Internet. There's still a dated notice at the bottom of the page. The tapir picture you see above welcomed guests. I remember cutting out a printed photo of the Malayan tapir I'd taken at the Amsterdam Zoo, slapping it onto a piece of paper and putting it in the scanner. I vaguely remember having taken the print off of another piece of paper, because you can see the glue marks on the tapir's rear end. Somewhere near the bottom or top of the tapir it said "Welcome," because I was trying out the caption feature of images. I liked it and I left it for many years. The quality of online photos has improved, and web design and code has sure come a long way, although the current Tapir Gallery maintains a kind of "Old Internet" charm, and I like it that way. The links work, and you're not going to confuse it with every white-background site with graphic navigation and a cookie-cutter format. The Tapir Gallery is homegrown and honest. That doesn't mean it couldn't be improved, and I'm currently in the midst of upgrading as time permits. Remember those old signs, "This site is under construction"? Eventually we all figured out that a web site is ALWAYS under construction! Or it should be.
If you'd like to see how the site looked by November of 1996, here is a link. No, I didn't have to save the archive, but sometime in the last few years I discovered a very cool web site called The Wayback Machine. It archives web sites. For certain years it has archived the Tapir Gallery main page numerous times, and other years maybe twice. Here you can see the site's list of links to saved main pages for The Tapir Gallery. Sometimes it saves most of the photos and links and sometimes not. It's a trip. You can track the site through time.
HOW THE SITE STARTED
I first began to learn HTML during a hospital stay in January 1996. Typically, I didn't just take an easy book to read and try to relax, but I took the folder of bills that had to be paid, and - much more interesting - I took a bunch of printouts from the web on how to code HTML. I actually read them, and in a week when I came back home (I was living in the tiny town of Palisade, Colorado), I began coding. I had no idea what was in store. To say that this exercise changed my life is a minor, minor understatement.
People have asked me through the years why the Tapir Preservation Fund doesn't have its own separate URL and why the site is called The Tapir Gallery, and not The Tapir Preservation Fund. The real answer is, it all just grew out of my home page, which I started in January 2006. And here's a link if you want to take a gander at how that started! I envisioned the Tapir Gallery not like an art gallery, but like the great halls of a natural history museum - also called galleries. The URL was tapirback.com, because there was a book I had self-published under the imprint of Tapirback Books. Anyway, when I married Marco and we moved to Colorado, he started an AutoCad drafting business and named it Tapirback Enterprises. We had some other business ideas, too, so "Enterprises" seemed like a good idea. Things evolved, things changed, but the URL remained. I kept growing it like a tree with branches and never had a great desire to separate the parts physically. I have tried to clarify the Tapirback home page so you can find the main sections easily.
From almost day one The Tapir Gallery attracted a lot of visitors, as it was probably the second tapir site on the Internet, the first being a site developed by a teenager named Jamie, who loved tapirs, and who I would like to acknowledge here and remember. If I can find his Tapir Net (or TapirNet) on The Wayback Machine, I'll make a link. He posted long encyclopedia references on tapirs (which was virtually all the actual info you could find online about tapirs in those days), and had a neat graphic where you could click on the parts of the tapir and they would enlarge in a circle for a better view. His site icon photo was a pic of a lowland tapir labelled Central American Tapir, I remember that. It was hard to check up on such mistakes in the early days. Printed books notoriously had hundreds of mistakes about tapirs, and that's where he'd obtained his information. I suggested he change it, but he never did. I think he was upset that The Tapir Gallery grew and became easier to find on the searches. We're all still struggling with that one as the web continues to explode. I remember when I could catalog nearly all of the tapirs online and put them in links lists. But those days are gone. A culling of "best of" or "my favorites" is about all that can be done. There is now so much material on tapirs that a person can usually get good data and make comparisons. It's also a lot more fun for tapir fans.
WHERE TO NOW?
I'm pleased that The Tapir Gallery is still a useful resource. Also in 1996 The Tapir Preservation Fund was born in Colorado, and 18 months later gained its Federal 501 (c) (3) nonprofit status. As these aspects of my work grew and the gift shop that supports it needed constant attention like a baby for its first few years, the actual tapir data and photos on The Tapir Gallery became less and less current. During this 12 years, I've enjoyed going back to serious site work at intervals. Recently I've begun seriously to work on it again, and plan to keep on coding with new design ideas and thoughts about what content is relevant in this decade given the sources that have grown up around us all. It's still fun, it's still a challenge, and it still attracts loads of visitors who, hopefully find what they're looking for. What more could I ask?
Happy Anniversary, Tapir Gallery . . . and many more!