[If] Mars Attacks!

The Bronx Zoo, like many public facilities, has long had internal protocols for both standard operating procedures and emergency operating procedures [EOPs].  In the early 1970s, the Bronx Zoo’s newly-revitalized Safety Committee conducted a series of revisions of the Zoo’s Emergency Procedures Manual.  The revision process included gathering and codifying types of emergencies, ideal responses, and needed equipment from a wide variety of departments.

Detail of the reply from Herpetology Department Curator Wayne King to a May 1972 request from the Safety Committee for additions to the emergency equipment list. Scanned from WCS Collection 2010/Safety Committee.

Detail of the reply from Herpetology Department Curator Wayne King to a May 1972 request from the Safety Committee for additions to the emergency equipment list. Scanned from WCS Collection 2010/Safety Committee.

Records from the Safety Committee in those years include correspondence between the Committee and departments relating to animal care, guest services, facilities operations and maintenance, and more.  They also include drafts of the manual, notably one from 1971-1972 and one from 1974.  These draft manuals include procedures for:

  • Several emergencies that might occur at any large public facility (e.g. lost children, visitor injuries and illnesses, severe storms, fires, heating/plumbing/electricity failures, and so on)
  • Some that are specific to institutions, like zoos and aquaria, that care for living collections (e.g. animal escapes, interruptions in animal food supplies, visitors harassing zoo animals, and attacks on zoo animals by feral/stray domestic animals)
  • A few that are rooted in the tumults of the late 1960s/early 1970s environment of Cold War nuclear fears, anti-Vietnam War protests, and general cultural unrest (e.g. air raids, bombings, riots, and other civil disturbances)

(Another EOP page that’s definitely a product of its times regards what to do in the event of a park-wide telephone failure—not so much of an issue now that nearly everyone has cell phones.)

One interesting EOP included protocols for venomous snake bites that occurred outside of the Zoo.  In those days, the Zoo often fielded telephone calls from hospitals that were treating snake bites and lacked expertise in snake identification and anti-venin matching.  In these cases, the Zoo’s Reptile Department would get the description of the snake from the hospitals and send them doses of the correct anti-venin via the police.

As might be imagined, the manuals included scores of EOPs and variations (for example, separate procedures for if a heating failure occurred at a guest service building like a cafeteria, an animal exhibit, a non-exhibit animal facility, or a non-public staff building).  Also, given the era of counterculture influences, the brand-new space age, and the threat of global nuclear annihilation, people may have been inclined to prepare for all sorts of out-there events.   All of this is to say that I am not sure if—and there are no records indicating whether—the following EOP, included as the last page of the 1974 draft manual, was meant to be taken seriously as the proper response to a potential threat or was meant as a test to see if reviewers of the draft had read all the way to the end:

Last page of the Bronx Zoo's 1974 draft Emergency Procedures Manual, describing protocol for a Martian attack. Scanned from WCS Collection 2010/Safety Committee.

Last page of the Bronx Zoo’s 1974 draft Emergency Procedures Manual, describing protocol for a Martian attack. Scanned from WCS Collection 2010/Safety Committee.

From “Andy’s Animal Alphabet” to “The White Whales of Bristol Bay”…Processing Records from the NYZS Department of Education

As we mentioned back in December, the WCS Archives was recently awarded a major grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to process several important collections.  We’ve now started in on processing the collections, which in addition to the collections from Fairfield Osborn, Lee S. Crandall, and others that we mentioned in our initial announcement, also include records from James A. Oliver, New York Zoological Society press releases spanning most of the 20th Century, and several  hundred illustrations from the Department of Tropical Research.  

In order to complete the work, the Archives has brought on a full-time project archivist, Emma Curtis, to do the bulk of the processing.  Each month Emma will be sharing her progress and latest discoveries in a post here on Wild Things.  We’re as thrilled to have her with us as we are to be working on the grant!

These first few weeks have brought a few notable insights of New York Zoological Society’s rich history as progress begins to ramp up on tackling the thirteen previously unprocessed and under-processed collections selected from WCS Archives holdings for this project.

In beginning to appraise a collection of records from the NYZS Department of Education produced during the 1940s-1980s, NYZS’s important role in producing and presenting motion picture films during the 20th century became apparent. Combing though the surviving records such as film scripts, shot lists, planning and production notes, correspondence, memos, inventory lists and indexes, titles like “From the Pampas to Patagonia,” “The Expedition to Puffin Island,” “Around the Year in the Zoo” and “Herbert and His Friends” emerged to illustrate the range of topics that NYZS invested in to expand their educational role. There are films reporting on research expeditions, studies in animal behaviour, features on facilities the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium, and even films geared towards inspiring and educating the next generation of young zoologists, naturalists, and conservationists.

Films were previewed at NYZS’s Annual General Meetings to Society members before often finding additional audiences elsewhere. NYZS audio-visual media services, which at one point was coordinated by the Publications and Photography department, facilitated the use of NYZS motion picture films in venues such as New York City classrooms, professional associations, zoological parks across the country and other venues.

“The Locomotion of Snakes,” for example, was produced by staff photographer Sam Dunton in 1952 with then Curator of Reptiles, Dr. James A. Oliver. It presented on the science of animal behaviour and featured the puff adder in what was intended to the be first in a series of educational films on living reptiles, according to the 1952 report from the Department.

Page 5 from the film script for “The Locomotion of Snakes,” 1952. WCS Archives Collection 2008.

Page 5 from the film script for “The Locomotion of Snakes,” 1952. WCS Archives Collection 2008.

Insights into NYZS’s films like “The Locomotion of Snakes” can be seen through the surviving versions of the film’s scripts, as they document both the production and information content of the films, and also through their associated records, which provide evidence of early collection management activities for these valuable media assets for the Society. Note the footage description and narration (above) and corresponding photograph (below) illustrating the lengths to which staff photographer Sam Dunton was willing to go to document and dispel the myths of the mechanics of motion and movement of the large venomous snake.

On the set of filming “The Locomotion of Snakes,” 1952. NYZS Curator of Reptiles Dr. James A. Oliver with puff adder, and NYZS Staff Photographer Sam Dunton filming below the glass suspending the snake. Digitized from Gathering of Animals: An Unconventional History of the New York Zoological Society, page 477. The New York Zoological Society. 1974.

On the set of filming “The Locomotion of Snakes,” 1952. NYZS Curator of Reptiles Dr. James A. Oliver with puff adder, and NYZS Staff Photographer Sam Dunton filming below the glass suspending the snake. Digitized from Gathering
of Animals: An Unconventional History of the New York Zoological Society, page 477. The New York Zoological Society. 1974.

NYZS Annual Reports within the year of film production and in the following year of the annual general meeting presentation also provide further background into the Society’s approach to making and coordinating film footage. For example, the 1952 NYZS Annual Report report from Department of Reptiles notes the type of facilities and motion picture technology used at the time of filming “Locomotion”:

“Through the generosity of Dr. James S. Watson, Jr., the wonderful facilities of the Department of Radiology at the University of Rochester Medical School were made available for the analysis of one type of snake locomotion. Dr. Oliver and Mr. Dunton journeyed to Rochester to get the first X-ray motion pictures ever made of a snake performing the rectilinear or caterpillar type of locomotion. Dr. Watson and Mr. Sydney Weinberg recorded the details of this type of locomotion on their giant fluorine graphic camera and provided us with the X-ray footage used in our completed film on locomotion.” (NYZS 1952 Annual Report, page 22)

The film was presented at the 57th Annual General Meeting at Hunter College in January 1953, along with other films NYZS produced that year to much fanfare. The Department of Reptiles reported on the success of the film including the audience reception at its premier, additional screenings to professional groups like the American Society for Ichthyologists and Herpetologists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the film’s subsequent sale and distribution via McGraw-Hill that would bring the film to future audiences. Work on the second film in the series began that year in earnest.

 Program from the 57th Annual General Meeting of The New York Zoological Society, 1953. WCS Archives Collection 2016.

Program from the 57th Annual General Meeting of The New York Zoological Society, 1953. WCS Archives Collection 2016.

The processing project runs from June 2016 to June 2017. I look forward to sharing project news and discoveries from the collections over the next year.

This post was submitted by WCS’s NHPRC Project Archivist, Emma Curtis, who joined the WCS Archives in July 2016.

 

 

First Phase of Our Photo Preservation Project is Complete

Picture1 As we’ve been reporting, the WCS Archives has spent the first half of the year working on a project to preserve our photographic negative collection.  Funded by the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials, the project serves as the first phase in what we intend to be a larger initiative to preserve the entire collection.  During this first phase, we identified and rehoused the collection’s first 10,267 photographic negatives.  This included 2,111 dry plate glass negatives and 8,156 acetate film negatives; of these, all of the glass negatives and 60% of the acetate negatives were 5×7”, and 40% of the acetate negatives were 4×5” or smaller.  Continue reading

Celebrating the NPS Centennial in the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park

Wildlife Conservation Society_24782_Jackson Hole Wildlife Park Drawing by Lloyd Sanford_01 02 53This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and to celebrate this major event, we’re remembering the creation of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park.  In 1948, New York Zoological Society trustee and future NYZS president Laurance S. Rockefeller worked with NYZS and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to establish the park, and in 1962, the park was donated to the National Park Service for inclusion in Grand Teton National Park.

Continue reading

Preserving Herpetological History… and Beyond

Wildlife Conservation Society_009962_Ball Python Snake_BZ_09 09 25In January 2016, the WCS Archives began a project to preserve WCS’s historical photographic negatives. Since then, another intern and I have been going through these negatives one by one, inspecting them and creating an inventory, noting any information we can glean about their title, date, and physical condition. To ensure their long-term preservation, these negatives are being rehoused and placed into new acid-free envelopes and boxes. The approximately 50,000 negatives in this collection include both acetate film and glass plate negatives, and the oldest images date back to 1899. During this first phase of the project, I have been working with around the first 10,000 negatives in the collection, which represent the earliest of WCS’s photos, ranging from 1899 to the early 1940s.  This project was funded by the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials.

Continue reading

How the American Bison Became Our National Mammal

Bison at the Bronx Zoo being crated for transport to the Wichita Forest  and Game Preserve (now known as the Wichita Mountains Wildlife  Reserve), October 1907. William Hornaday appears on the left.  WCS Photo Collection

Bison at the Bronx Zoo being crated for transport to the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve (now known as the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reserve), October 1907. William Hornaday appears on the left. WCS Photo Collection

This week, President Obama signed a law making the bison the US’s first national mammal.  To celebrate this momentous event, we’re looking back on the history of protection for the American bison with a blog post over on Medium.  Check it out here:

http://medium.com/@WCS/how-the-american-bison-became-our-national-mammal-eace49467768#.qva9dat56

WCS NDSR Project Post: “{Let’s Get Digital} Recap”

Our NDSR Resident, Genevieve Havemeyer-King, was recently one of the organizers of a free, all-day symposium on digital preservation held under the auspices of the Metropolitan New York Library Council, the Archivists Round Table of New York, and the Brooklyn Historical Society.

As an attendee, I can say that the event was a rousing success!  In her latest post on the NDSR-NY Resident blog, Genevieve showcases the day’s highlights and links to slides and other resources from the presentations and workshops:

http://ndsr.nycdigital.org/lets-get-digital-recap/

Check it out!

The African Plains: “A New Vista to the Wonders of Nature”

wcs-2016-pc-091“A new vista to the wonders of Nature.”  This is how New York Zoological Society President Fairfield Osborn described the brand new African Plains exhibit when it opened at the Bronx Zoo 75 years ago next week, on May 1, 1941.  The exhibit—with its bringing together of several African species, including lions, zebras, nyalas, and many birds, into an expansive savannah landscape—was indeed a new vista for the Zoo.  Whereas previous Bronx Zoo exhibits were conceived around animal orders or families—what Osborn referred to as “man-made classification”—and often indoors—think of the old Lion House, the Monkey House—the African Plains brought together animals based on geography, and it placed them in a naturalistic setting. Continue reading

WCS NDSR Project Post: “Trojan Dots and DIY Solutions”

Our National Digital Stewardship Resident here at the WCS Archives,  Genevieve Havemeyer-King, has another post  on the NDSR-NY Program blog:

http://ndsr.nycdigital.org/trojan-dots-and-diy-solutions/

In this post Genevieve talks about her takeaways from a recent conference and describes one of the smallest challenges we’ve faced so far—so tiny, in fact, that we nearly didn’t see it!

Check it out!