We were saddened by the death last week of William Conway, who began his career at WCS as an assistant ornithology curator in 1956 and retired as its president in 1999. Dr. Conway is undoubtedly among the most pivotal figures in WCS’s history and in modern zoo and aquarium history. We will be reflecting on his legacy in the coming months, but for now, the WCS Archives is remembering the grit and the grace Dr. Conway brought to saving wildlife and wild places.
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.
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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.
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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.
These are some of the original labels that were used on the exhibits at the New York Aquarium when it was located at Castle Clinton in Battery Park. According to the then director of the Aquarium, Charles H. Townsend, the information on the labels reflected the questions most often posed by visitors including geographic distribution, abundance, size, commercial value, and importance as game.
This post is part of our series through the year to celebrate the New York Aquarium’s 125th Anniversary.
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This year, the New York Aquarium is celebrating 125 years of connecting people to the marine world. Established originally at Battery Park (pictured in this 1931 postcard) in 1896 by New York City, the aquarium transferred to the WCS’s management in 1902 following the successful opening of the Bronx Zoo. In 1957, it moved to its current home in Coney Island. To celebrate its 125 years of having been a leader in marine conservation science as well as a beloved attraction for NYC locals and tourists alike, the WCS Archives will be highlighting the history of the aquarium throughout the year.
Happy Halloween! We’re celebrating the spookiest day of the year and the end of Bat Week with this 1969 cover from WCS’s magazine Animal Kingdom marking the opening of the World of Darkness exhibit at the Bronx Zoo!
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From the WCS Instagram:
On April 26, 1895, 125 years ago today, WCS was founded as the New York Zoological Society. Today, we celebrate over a century of successes at saving wildlife and wild places, powered by the expertise and science in our zoos, aquarium, and global conservation program.
We mark our anniversary with heavy hearts, as our world suffers from a pandemic tearing apart our communities. With much hope, we will continue to use our mission to help prevent future pandemics.
Watch a video about our history via this link.