Ugo Mochi is not a household name. But his artwork is known and admired by many. Mochi was best known for his animal silhouettes. Created from paper with details to scale, these silhouettes are Mochi’s greatest contribution to art as well as to the study of the natural world. [UgoMochi.com, history section, accessed 2/1/17]
The New York Zoological Society’s (now the Wildlife Conservation Society) Bronx Zoo was a favorite spot for Mochi. He used Zoo animals when creating his most famous book, Hoofed Mammals of the World (1953). A few years after his death in 1977, Mochi’s daughters donated to the Zoo the 40 original plates used in the Hoofed Mammals book. WCS adapted some of his silhouettes in logos and exhibit graphics.
Over time, however, the plates began to deteriorate. Silhouettes became dislodged from their matting. The plates became dirty. An earlier Greater Hudson Heritage Network (GHHN) grant identified the issues facing these plates. And the WCS Archives, recognizing the importance and aesthetic value of these pieces, applied for and was awarded a grant from GHHN to restore most of them (30 of 40).
Before image of Plate IV
After image of Plate IV
Conservator Paula Schrynemakers was brought in to do the delicate work of stabilizing the pieces and restoring them for long term preservation. Each piece required individualized treatment. Wheat paste was used to re-affix dislodged silhouettes. Surface cleaning was done to return the plates as close as possible back to their original beauty.
Before image of Plate IX
After image of Plate IX
Even with Paula’s wonderful work, as she pointed out in her treatment analysis, “although they are not brittle, the silhouettes are extremely fragile.” As the WCS Archives moves forward with exhibition plans for various items in the Archives, we will be following her excellent suggestions for exhibiting these plates.
With the Mochi family’s permission, we have also digitized the images. You can check out the before and after pictures here.
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
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
“A new vista to the wonders of Nature.” This is how New York Zoological Society President Fairfield Osborn described the brand new African Plains exhibit when it opened at the Bronx Zoo 75 years ago next week, on May 1, 1941. The exhibit—with its bringing together of several African species, including lions, zebras, nyalas, and many birds, into an expansive savannah landscape—was indeed a new vista for the Zoo. Whereas previous Bronx Zoo exhibits were conceived around animal orders or families—what Osborn referred to as “man-made classification”—and often indoors—think of the old Lion House, the Monkey House—the African Plains brought together animals based on geography, and it placed them in a naturalistic setting. Continue reading
At 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.
This post was written by Kimio Honda, Studio Manager in WCS’s Exhibition and Graphic Arts Department. This is part 2 of 2 posts on eagle sculptures at the Bronx Zoo and beyond.
Beyond the eagles I described in my previous post, there are a few other, though less visible, eagle sculptures at the Bronx Zoo. These belonged to the building behind the current Birds of Prey exhibit that was originally known as the Winter House for Eagles, built in 1912. (You can see original plans for the building on the NYC Design Flickr page.) Curator of Birds William Beebe took the building as a research space as early as 1914, and it later served as the headquarters for his Department of Tropical Research. The Beebe Lab, as it was known, later became the office for the Publications Department, and house now Digital Programs and Media Production. 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.
We’re pleased to report that more of our materials are now available online–specifically some fun Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium ephemera from our Publications and Printed Ephemera collection. Thanks to the excellent Culture in Transit Program, we now have 112 additional items up at METRO’s Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York site. This is a fraction of this large and always growing collection, and we hope to add more in the coming years. Continue reading
Thirty years ago today, the Bronx Zoo’s JungleWorld exhibit opened to the public. Posed in the 1985 NYZS Annual Report as an “experiment” that built upon decades of innovations in zoogeographic exhibition, JungleWorld sought to break new ground in wild animal care and exhibition, and it was widely considered the most ambitious indoor zoological environment ever created at the time. Continue reading
As 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