This June we celebrate the multifaceted nature of all life around us. As the archival record shows, science is constantly evolving. As we continue learning about the diversity of animal, plant, and human relationships and identities, the stronger and more resilient our scientific communities, and thus, our world, will become.
The Zoo Shuttle at the Bronx Zoo has been helping visitors get around and see the zoo since 1940. It started as a way to “to insure the happiness and comfort of the visitor” by allowing everyone by allowing everyone, of all abilities, to experience the 265-acre park. In the 1960s the Education Department wrote lectures that were given on the shuttle, and it became referred to as the “Tiger Train.” This photo shows the Zoo Shuttle making its way through Fountain Circle in the 1950s.
Since January, I have been interning at the WCS Library & Archives as part of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program at NYU. I worked with the WCS film collection inventory to prepare records for online access.
As with most things this last year, it was a somewhat strange experience, since I worked remotely despite living just a few miles from the Bronx Zoo. But working virtually allowed me to use part of my brain that doesn’t get much attention: my imagination. I had to imagine what “Gorilla dental treatment” or “Penguin House opening” might look like. Doing so allowed me to deduce additional information that wasn’t captured in the original inventory: who was involved, where it took place, whether other copies might exist. I could imagine what past inventories were aiming to record, like how items related to one another and what certain shorthand from the 1940s meant.
I also had to imagine the audience for these films. With my background in film history, I don’t know the first thing about zoology or wildlife conservation. But with a little imagination I could put myself in the shoes of one of these researchers. If I were a conservationist, what might I want to know about “The Curious Crabs of Singapore” or “Gardens Under the Sea”?
I hope that these imaginative skills stick around in our in-person work, for myself and the next person who has the pleasure of working on this collection. Even for a field that is concerned with evidence, authority, and documentation, thinking imaginatively can bring us new discoveries.
This post is by Sarah Hartzell, a Master’s student in NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program.