Author Archives: wcsarchivesadmin

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?”

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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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.

Happy Halloween from the WCS Archives! [Instagram]

Happy Halloween from the WCS Archives! This vampire bat image was likely taken during a 1934 expedition to Trinidad, where the Bronx Zoo’s first Herpetology Curator Raymond Ditmars and his associate Arthur Greenhall studied the elusive species and brought back specimens for the zoo.  WCS Archives Accession 2014.121.

Happy Pirate Day! [Instagram]

Here’s Don Dickerman, who, when he wasn’t measuring frigate bird wingspans as part of the Department of Tropical Research’s 1925 Arcturus Expedition to the Galápagos, was running a Greenwich Village nightclub called the Pirates’ Den. Obsessed with pirates, Dickerman also had a bit part in Errol Flynn’s pirate movie The Sea Hawk. Photo © WCS. WCS Archives DTR Photo Collection. #pirateday #frigatebird #galapagos #dtr #archives
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The WCS Archives is now on Instagram!

Follow us there to join our expedition through historical treasures from @thewcs and its parks, @bronxzoo, @nyaquarium, @centralparkzoo, @thequeenszoo, and @prospectparkzoo.  Membership brochure featuring the Bronx Zoo’s Gibbon Island, early 1950s. WCS Archives Collection 2016. #bronxzoo #zoohistory #gibbonisland #gibbons #archives
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Happy 40th to Wild Asia!

On August 19, 1977, the Bronx Zoo’s Wild Asia exhibit opened to the public.  New York Times review on that date declared that

Wild Asia conveys a feeling of remoteness wrapped in a pervasive and palpable stillness, which is broken only by the occasional snort or shrill of one of its 200 animals and birds of Asian provenance, the delighted gasp of visitors seated in the monorail train that makes a circuit of the region or the muted roar of traffic on the nearby Bronx River Parkway.  

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NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Grant Project Complete

As we reported back in August 2015, the WCS Archives received a Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  We’re pleased now to report the completion of the project, in which we developed a Conceptual Preservation Design Plan for a new WCS Archives space.  Situated in the Bronx Zoo’s Heads and Horns Building, this space would include a large collections storage area to provide safe, sustainable preservation conditions for our historical materials, proper fhich we currently lack) to host those consulting the collections as well as classes and small lectures, and a small exhibition area to showcase WCS’s historical treasures to invited audiences.  Continue reading