Author Archives: Leilani Dawson

In the voices of animals

The vast majority of the documents in the WCS Archives are written by people speaking as themselves.  They may be speaking as representatives for a larger collective, such as the Society, or a professional organization, or even–in the cases of some Congressional testimony transcripts–as representatives for the zoo profession as a whole.  Every now and then, however, we come across examples of people speaking not in their own voices, but in those of animals.
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WCS Archives Awarded Grant from the Leon Levy Foundation


We’re very excited to start work on a one-year project funded by the Leon Levy Foundation [LLF] to ingest and process our legacy digital removable media!  This project builds directly on the success of last year’s National Digital Stewardship Residency [NDSR] Project.  However, while that work focused on electronic records that are just now being transferred to the Archives, the LLF project will allow us to work with digital materials that had been previously transferred to the Archives as part of predominantly paper-based collections. Continue reading

[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.  Continue reading

The ‘Rubbish War’: Hornaday’s Home-Town Campaign

Wildlife Conservation Society_005575_Waste Paper East of Bronx River_BZ_05 00 12-watermarkedAt the Bronx Zoo the approach of Spring brings warmer weather, and thus increasing crowds enjoying the park.  As the season progresses the Horticulture, Maintenance, and Operations Departments, as well as various others, all find themselves increasingly busy with the work of keeping the Zoo presentable.  A century ago these departments’ predecessors also joined the fight to maintain the grounds.  During the early 20th Century, however, Director William Hornaday, treating the efforts to keep the Zoo clean like one of his conservation campaigns, gave what he called ‘The Rubbish War’ a hyperbolic air not seen in today’s spring cleanings.

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Zoo Letterhead – Western U.S., 1956-1971

Letterhead-USWestZoos-005-RioGrandePark-redacted-CroppedContinuing our series on graphic design in letterhead, this installment features stationery from zoos and aquaria in the western United States during the mid 1950s – early 1970s.   (Letterhead from the late 19th and early 20th centuries is the subject of another post!)

Which is your favorite?  (You can right-click on the images to open them in new tabs and examine them more closely.)

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Zoo Letterhead – International Mid-Century Modern Edition

Letterhead-InternationalZoos-002-BirdlandIn the 20th Century, before the internet became ubiquitous, an organization’s written correspondence was one of its primary points of contact with its partners, suppliers, and the public.  Accordingly, stationery became an important medium for graphic design.  The Wildlife Conservation Society Archives contains numerous pieces of correspondence with striking, beautiful, or amusing examples of letterhead design.

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Processing update

1991-009-TorrentDucks-ContactSheet-19700106-JoeBellMeasuringDuckFor most of the past year I have been processing historical records from our Ornithology Department, particularly materials from former Curators Joe Bell, Don Bruning, and Christine Sheppard.  These records provide detailed evidence of the Curators’ oversight of bird husbandry and exhibits at the Bronx Zoo, professional leadership in what was then called the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, and commitment to field conservation worldwide.  For the most part, however, this evidence only becomes truly impressive in aggregate: Rather than individual documents providing ‘A-ha!’ moments, it is the very depth and volume of material that gives the collections their historical weight.

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Conservation of another kind

MS_150311_0490-edit-resized.jpgAs its name implies, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) holds the conservation of wildlife and wild places as its central mission.  Not surprisingly, many of the posts here on “Wild Things”—the blog for the WCS Archives—highlight WCS’s historical conservation efforts.  This post, however, features a different kind of ‘conservation’: recent work performed on some of the Archives’ own materials. Continue reading