8/8/88: Happy 30th (Re)Birthday, Central Park Zoo

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Central Park Zoo’s reopening under WCS management.

Invitation to the reopening of the Central Park Zoo, 1988. WCS Archives Collection 2016

Until 1980, the City Zoos were administered by New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation. New York City officially chartered the already existing Central Park Menagerie in 1864; in 1934 Robert Moses had it rebuilt as part of his plan to update parks and recreation areas in the city.

Invitation to Central Park Zoo’s reopening, 1934. WCS Archives Collection 2016

By the mid-1970s, all three City Zoos were in decline; troubles were exacerbated by the New York City budget crisis of the era. In an environment of bad press and lawsuits against the city on the zoos’ behalf, city government and WCS (then known as the New York Zoological Society) engaged in negotiations for the handover of the zoos to the Society. After over a decade of talks, the parties finally reached agreement in 1980, at which point the Society’s City Zoos Project began. Education Curator Richard L. Lattis was named the project’s director and oversaw the staged shutdown of the three zoos, their redesign, construction, and reopening.

Mayor Ed Koch and crowds at the reopening of the Central Park Zoo, August 8, 1988. WCS Photo Collection

Central Park Zoo closed in 1983 and reopened August 8, 1988 to great fanfare and extensive press coverage. New York Magazine–which, in 1977, had noted the widespread opinion that Central Park Zoo was “not fit for animals” at that time–ran a July 18, 1988 cover story on the new “state-of-the art” zoo.  The New York Times ran a front-page photo, announcing, “At Last, a Joy for All Ages: Central Park Zoo is Back.” Mayor Ed Koch led the reopening event and tossed out the inaugural fish in the Sea Lion Pool. Even Jim Henson excitedly recorded the event in his diary: “8/8/1988: New Central Park Zoo opens!”

Model for new Central Park Zoo, 1983. WCS Archives Collection 3003

The redesign of the Central Park Zoo was led by renowned architect Kevin Roche. Models such as the one shown here were created as part of the process. Upon the reopening of the Zoo in 1988 under WCS management, The New York Times declared that Roche had “wrought a piece of architecture at once spectacular and exquisite. The new Central Park Zoo … is one of the few pieces of civic architecture built in New York in the last generation about which it is possible to be almost completely enthusiastic. It is beautiful, it is fun to be in, it respects the park and it respects the animals. What more could we want?”

Princeton the Malayan Tiger [Instagram]

© Wildlife Conservation Society

Princeton the tiger is shown here in a photo taken 114 years ago this month. Princeton was an early inhabitant of the Bronx Zoo’s Lion House, which opened in 1903. This photo is part of our historical negatives collection with images dating back to the opening of the Bronx Zoo in 1899.

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Jackson Hole Wildlife Park 70th Anniversary [Instagram]

Jackson Hole Wildlife Park—which NYZS was active in developing—was formally dedicated and opened to the public 70 years ago yesterday, July 19. Also in 1948, NYZS founded the Jackson Hole Biological Research Station. The station rapidly developed into the focal point for studies on the flora and fauna of the Rocky Mountains, many of which had application to the future management of Grand Teton National Park. In 1953, NYZS began jointly operating the station with the University of Wyoming, an arrangement that continued through 1975.

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Happy Cephalopod Week! [Instagram]

 

We’re celebrating Cephalopod Week with this squid illustration by Department of Tropical Research staff artist Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, done in 1929 during the DTR’s explorations of marine life around Bermuda. While the DTR identified this as a “long-spined giant squid,” no such animal is known today. Any squid experts out there recognize this species? 

And for making it to the end of this post, we’re rewarding you with a squid joke: 

Q: What does it take to make a squid laugh? 

A: Ten tickles!  

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70th Anniversary of the Conservation Foundation [Instagram]

70 years ago today, the Conservation Foundation was established to support the New York Zoological Society’s ever-expanding conservation program.

CF funded courses in conservation study, educational films and radio programs, publications, and workshops. It also funded scientific research on natural resources, including the work cited by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962).

Although CF was closely affiliated with NYZS, and they jointly sponsored many wildlife conservation projects in the 1950s and 1960s, it was an independent organization from the start. In later years, the Foundation’s work turned more toward human environmental problems associated with development and away from wildlife conservation. In 1965, under the presidency of Russell Train, it moved its offices to Washington, DC and later became an affiliate of the World Wildlife Fund.

Shown is the Conservation Foundation’s logo and statement of purpose from an annual report held in WCS Archives Collection 1029. Processing for this collection was made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Access to Historical Records grant program.

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15 New Collections Now Accessible

The Wildlife Conservation Society Library and Archives is pleased to announce that we have completed a major project to process 15 significant historical collections from our holdings.  Among these are three collections related to the Department of Tropical Research, a team of scientists and artists who led pioneering ecological expeditions across tropical regions from the 1910s through the 1960s.  Also included are the records of Fairfield Osborn, former President of the New York Zoological Society (as WCS was previously known) and one of the foremost conservationists of the mid-twentieth century.

In addition, the newly processed collections hold records created by Bronx Zoo General Curator Lee S. Crandall; Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium Director James Oliver; NYZS President Robert G. Goelet, Director of Conservation F. Wayne King, and Assistant Secretary Harold C. Palmer; and NYZS’s Ornithology, Education, and Public Affairs Departments.

Together these collections cover pivotal events in the history of WCS that also represent important moments and trends in the cultural and scientific histories of New York City, the US, and the world.

Finding aids for the collections can be found here.  Information about accessing our collections is available here.

This project was made possible by funding from the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission.  The WCS Library and Archives is grateful to NHPRC for their support.

Learn About Butterflies Day [Instagram]

© Wildlife Conservation Society

In addition to being Pi Day, today is also Learn About Butterflies Day! Learn about the life cycle of the butterfly from this drawing by the Department of Tropical Research done at their research station in Simla, Trinidad. When this was drawn on February 18, 1951, the scientific name of the butterfly depicted was “Telegonus alardus,” and today it is known as “Astraptes alardus,” the Frosted Flasher.

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Cat Day in Japan [Instagram]

It’s Cat Day in Japan! To celebrate, here are some big cats from a guide book for the Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo, circa the 1930s. The guidebook is held in the WCS Archives Zoo History collection.

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New York Aquarium at Castle Clinton [Instagram]

© Wildlife Conservation Society

In December 1896, the New York Aquarium opened in Castle Clinton at Battery Park. Here’s the Aquarium’s interior in 1905, three years after WCS took over its management from New York City. In 1941, the Aquarium was closed by NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses to accommodate plans for a never-built bridge between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. After a temporary relocation to the Lion House at the Bronx Zoo, the Aquarium reopened in 1957 in its current location at Coney Island.

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