Bronx, NY, April 29, 2024 -- The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Library and Archives, based at the Bronx Zoo, is proud to announce the completion of its Shelby White and Leon Levy Film Initiative.  

Sponsored by the Leon Levy Foundation, this monumental project allowed WCS to assess and inventory more than 1,600 historical film reels. With the digitization of nearly 100 of these reels, WCS opens a window into the past, allowing unprecedented access to a treasure trove of zoo, aquarium, and wildlife conservation history.

The WCS Film Collection, composed largely of 35mm reels dating back to the early 1900s, captures pivotal scenes from WCS’s history and beyond. These include activities at its Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium as well as early field conservation research sponsored by the organization, which was founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society.  

From research on Weddell seals in the icy waters of Antarctica, to the tanks of the New York Aquarium at its original Battery Park location, from George Schaller’s groundbreaking mountain gorilla studies in the lush forests of Central Africa, to mid-1960s imaginings of the Bronx Zoo of the future, these films offer glimpses into ecosystems and species that have undergone remarkable transformations over the decades and showcase profound shifts in the practices of zoos, aquariums, and conservation researchers.

"This is a project 100 years in the making," said Madeleine Thompson, Executive Director of the WCS Library and Archives. "By preserving these reels created over the course of the 20th Century and digitizing a selection of them, we are safeguarding invaluable historical record and allowing researchers, conservationists, educators, and the public to explore and learn from these resources."

To explore the WCS Film Collection and access the selection of digitized films, visit:

About the WCS Library and Archives:
The WCS Library and Archives advances knowledge in support of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s mission to save wildlife and wild places. It provides information services to foster WCS’s leadership in science-based conservation, it preserves WCS’s robust record of activities, and it enhances understanding of WCS’s rich legacy.​ ​ 

About the Leon Levy Foundation:
The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from Leon Levy’s estate by his wife and Founding Trustee, Shelby White. The Foundation continues Leon Levy’s philanthropic legacy and builds on his vision, supporting the preservation, understanding and expansion of knowledge in the ancient world, Arts and Humanities, Nature and Gardens, Neuroscience, Human Rights, and Jewish Culture. To learn more, visit: