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Wildlife Conservation Society. City Zoos collection, 1933-2005  

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Guide to the Wildlife Conservation Society City Zoos collection, 1933-2005

Guide to the City Zoos Collection, 1933-2005 3003

Guide to the City Zoos Collection, 1933-2005
3003

Collection Overview

Repository
Wildlife Conservation Society Archives
Creator
Cheyne-Stout, R., (Ronald), 1895-
Creator
Conway, William, 1929-
Creator
Lattis, Richard L.
Creator
New York Zoological Society. City Zoos Project.
Creator
Wildlife Conservation Society (New York, N.Y.).
Collection Number
3003
Title
Wildlife Conservation Society. City Zoos collection
Date
1933-2005
Extent
8.95 linear feet (7 cartons, 1 large flat box, 1 small clamshell box)
Language
English
Abstract
In the mid 1970s, conditions at the Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Children’s Zoo, the Prospect Park Zoo, and the Queens Zoo were declining, and after several years of negotiations, the New York City Parks Department, which had run the city zoos, transferred them to the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society). The collection consists of a variety of materials pertaining to the city zoos and to the Society’s City Zoos Project, which, under Richard L. Lattis, directed the shutdown, redesign, construction, and reopening of the city zoos. Records from both Lattis and from the Society’s General Director, William G. Conway, are included in the collection. Also included are ephemera and visual materials which document exhibits staged at the Central Park Zoo Gallery between 1988 and 2005. Additionally the collection contains a scrapbook compiled by Ronald Cheyne-Stout—the Menagerie Director for the Central Park and Prospect Park Zoos from 1934 to 1939 and in 1941—that documents the two zoos’ 1934-1935 reconstruction and reopening, their exhibits and animals, and other related subjects.

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Indexing Terms

Corporate Name(s)

  • New York (N.Y.). Department of Parks and Recreation.
  • New York Zoological Society. City Zoos Project.
  • New York Zoological Society.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (New York, N.Y.). Central Park Zoo.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (New York, N.Y.). Prospect Park Zoo.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (New York, N.Y.). Queens Zoo.
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (New York, N.Y.).

Personal Name(s)

  • Cheyne-Stout, R., (Ronald), 1895-
  • Conway, William, 1929-
  • Lattis, Richard L.

Subject(s)

  • Zoo animals
  • Zoo directors
  • Zoo exhibits
  • Zoos -- Administration
  • Zoos -- Design and construction

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Certain portions of this collection are restricted. Please contact the WCS Archives regarding these access restrictions.

Usage Restrictions

Please contact the WCS Archives regarding possible usage restrictions.

Acquisition Information

Internal transfer, 2005; originally received from an anonymous individual (Acc. 2005.004).

Internal transfer, 2006 (Acc. 2006.003).

Internal transfer, 2007 (Acc. 2007.002).

Internal transfer, 1985 and/or 1992 (Acc. 1985.004 and/or 1992.017).

Repository Contact

Wildlife Conservation Society Archives

2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY, 10460
718.220.6874
library@wcs.org

Revision Description

 Import of folder list from inventory created by intern Vanessa Martinez. July 2013

Related Collections

Collection 1028. William G. Conway records, 1900-2004.

Collection 3010. Richard L. Lattis records, 1964-2003.

Acc. 2007.007. Central Park Zoo Scrapbook, circa 1934.

The Small Collections File, Collection 2015, also includes some City Zoos materials.

Preferred Citation

[Item], [Date]. City Zoos collection, 1933-2005. Collection 3003. Wildlife Conservation Society Archives, New York.

Items Separated

One Hollinger box of daily reports has been removed for transfer to animal records. A thin oversized volume (1982) by Claude and Francois Lalanne of site plans, renderings and photographs of scale models of proposed animal sculptures for the Central Park Zoo has been separated from the collection so that it could be flattened out and stored properly. Also, one file of personnel documents was removed for HR review.

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Historical Note

Until 1980, the Central Park Zoo (including the Central Park Children’s Zoo), the Prospect Park Zoo, and the Queens Zoo were administered by New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation. New York City officially chartered the pre-existing menagerie at Central Park Zoo in 1864; in 1934 Robert Moses had it rebuilt as part of his plan to update parks and recreation areas in the city. As part of that same effort, the Prospect Park Zoo was created from a menagerie dating to the 1890s, and Ronald Cheyne-Stout, who had served as an animal consultant to the two zoos during their reconstruction, served as their Menagerie Director until Moses ousted him.  The Queens Zoo, another Robert Moses project, opened in 1968 on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens.

By the mid 1970s all three 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 the New York Zoological Society engaged in a drawn-out process of 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. Central Park Zoo closed in 1983 and reopened in 1988, and the Prospect Park and Queens Zoos both closed in 1988, the former reopening in 1993 and the latter in 1992. Finally the Central Park Children’s Zoo, which had been funded by former Senator Herbert H. Lehman, reopened in 1997 after a series of controversies over naming rights and the architectural style of the new design. Lattis, who was Director of the Central Park Zoo from 1988 until 1994, served as Vice President of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s living institutions until 2007.

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Scope and Content

The collection consists of various records pertaining to the city zoos and to the City Zoos Project. An organized compilation chronicling the City Zoos Project includes agreements and other important documents relating to the handover of the three city zoos to the Society. Records from NYZS General Director William G. Conway document the deplorable conditions of the city zoos in the 1970s during the negotiations that led to the handover agreement, the negotiations themselves, and the zoos’ subsequent reconstruction and operation by the Society. Records from NYZS Living Institutions Director Richard L. Lattis pertain primarily to the Central Park Zoo, but also include materials on the New York Aquarium, the Central Park Children’s Zoo, the Prospect Park Zoo, and the Queens Zoo. Ephemera and visual materials document exhibits staged at the Central Park Zoo Gallery between 1988 and 2005 (including photographic prints and negatives of the early years of the Bronx Zoo). An oversized scrapbook compiled by Ronald Cheyne-Stout—the Menagerie Director for the Central Park and Prospect Park Zoos from 1934 to 1939 and in 1941—documents the two zoos’ 1930s reconstruction and reopening, their exhibits and animals, Cheyne-Stout, his wife, and various visiting animal handlers and animal shows.

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Arrangement

The collection is arranged into seven series:

Series 1:
 Central Park Zoo Gallery ephemera and visual materials, 1988-2005
Series 2:
 Central Park Zoo and Prospect Park Zoo scrapbook, circa 1934-1938
Series 3:
 Conway, William G. - NYZS Director’s City Zoos Project records, 1969-1997
Series 4:
 Lattis, Richard L. - Living Institutions Director’s records, 1996-2001
Series 5:
 City Zoos Project chronology and documents, 1979-1993
Series 6 and 7:
 Series 6 and 7 are unprocessed. Please contact the WCS Archives for more information.

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Other Finding Aids

The Wildlife Conservation Society Archives holds additional descriptive information pertaining to this collection; please contact the archivist for more detail.

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Wildlife Conservation Society Library & Archives | 2300 Southern Blvd. Bronx, NY 10460 | library[at]wcs[dot]org


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