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. Continue reading →
At this time of year one may ask the question: “What do the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) and Rockefeller Center have in common?” As it turns out, the Society and this long-standing New York City gathering place and holiday beacon have a historical relationship–with a festive flavor. Continue reading →
For 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.
Today, if you want information on an animal, you might turn to the internet, and look it up on Google or Wikipedia. If you want information on the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Bronx Zoo, or one of the other wildlife parks, you might go to their website, read their FAQs, or go to the “contact us” page for email information. In 1965, however, such information was not a just a click away. If you had a school project, or needed animal information for another reason, you might write to the zoo. And if you were Assistant Curator of Birds and Mammals Grace Davall, part of your job would be responding to these inquiries. Continue reading →
Over the past several months the WCS Archives has processed six collections, five of which are wholly or partially open for research. The finding aids for these collections have joined the descriptions of previously processed archival collections available through the WCS Library’s public website, www.wcs.org/library. (The direct link to the Archives’ finding aids is: http://ielc.libguides.com/wcs/archives_fas.) Included below are the abstracts for and links to the collections’ finding aids, plus an image or document from each. Continue reading →
In 1922, the Bronx Zoo displayed the first duck-billed platypus to be shown live in a zoo outside of Australia. That was the last platypus to be seen in the United States for the next quarter century, until the Bronx Zoo again exhibited platypuses in April 1947. The Bronx Zoo’s parent organization, the New York Zoological Society, had begun working with the famed Australian naturalist David Fleay to acquire platypuses in the winter of 1945-1946. The original hope was to display the platypuses that summer, but several factors thwarted this plan. Capture and shipping difficulties, a threatened maritime strike, and a housing shortage that led the US government to ban all non-housing construction ultimately led the Society to call off the acquisition until the following year. Continue reading →
William Bridges, in his history of the early years of the New York Zoological Society, relates that “in 1901, William T. Hornaday, the Bronx Zoo’s founding director, sought to acquire a ‘particolored bear’ for exhibition” (Gathering of Animals, p.222). In 1938 Hornaday’s successor, W. Reid Blair, acquired the Society’s first giant panda, Pandora. Pandora–and to a lesser extent her compatriot, Pan–was a smashing success. Her sojourn at the Society’s pavilion at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair was so popular that her return to the Bronx was celebrated with an enlarged enclosure and increased visitor viewing areas. Continue reading →