Grant will enable rehousing and preservation of glass slide and film photo negatives from early years of Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium

Project made possible by New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials

View some of the first photographs from Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium here: Link to Archive Photos

BRONX, NEW YORK – Feb 8, 2016 – The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Archives has received a grant from the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials to rehouse photographic negatives dating back to the founding of the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium.

The $16,674 grant will enable WCS to rehouse glass plate and film negatives that would otherwise be susceptible to damage and deterioration. The images, dating from the Bronx Zoo’s founding in 1899 through approximately 1930, will be cleaned and properly rehoused for long-term preservation. Although the entire collection requires rehousing, this project focuses on the first 12,000 negatives in the collection of more than 70,000. 

“This is an important foundational step in the preservation of the historically significant collection,” said Dr. Madeleine Thompson, WCS Institutional Archivist and Digital Resources Manager. “Building off this project, we hope to rehouse the entire photo collection in the years to come and eventually digitize the negatives to make the collection more accessible as a historic and educational resource.”

The images show exceptional historic views of the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium including the first animals housed there, early exhibits, staff, visitors, and some international locations where WCS, then named the New York Zoological Society, undertook fieldwork. The subjects depicted in these photos demonstrate the significant physical and cultural changes that have occurred though WCS’s history. In addition, the images show how animal care practices and exhibit standards, along with the zoo grounds, have evolved with time.

The New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials provides funding for libraries and other organizations. The program was established as part of the landmark 1984 library legislation and was expanded in 1986 and 1990. It is administered by the New York State Library's Division of Library Development. The purpose of the program is to encourage the proper care and accessibility of research materials, promote the use and development of guidelines and technical standards for conservation/preservation work, and to support the growth of local and cooperative activities within the context of emerging national preservation programs.

A slideshow of early photographs benefiting from this preservation project can be seen here. Corresponding captions are listed below.  All photos must be credited to: © WCS.

Rudolph Kersting_00001_Alligator Eating_BZ_00 00 99.JPG

Alligator eating at the Bronx Zoo, 1899. 

This is the first photograph in WCS’s collection.  The photographer, Rudolph Kersting, took many of WCS’s early photographs before the development of WCS’s first photo department in 1901 under the direction of the first staff photographer, Elwin Sanborn.


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Cyclone the grizzly bear, Bronx Zoo, December 1901. 

Cyclone was a popular animal in the early years of the Bronx Zoo. The zoo’s first director, William T. Hornaday, called him “really a fine-spirited dignified little grizzly.”


Wildlife Conservation Society_00493_Kodiak Bear and Keeper_BZ_12 18 05.JPG

Kodiak bear and keeper, Bronx Zoo, December 18, 1905. 

The WCS historical photo collection is a priceless resource for exploring how animal care has changed over time.


Wildlife Conservation Society_00704_Pearys Eskimo Dogs_BZ_10 00 02.JPG

Peary’s dogs at the Bronx Zoo, October 1902. 

Following Robert Peary’s 1898-1902 Arctic expedition, Peary’s Arctic Club donated four dogs to the Bronx Zoo, including his celebrated dog Bridge. These dogs helped Peary travel farther north on land than anyone had before.  Bridge and his mate, White Face, lived out their days at the Bronx Zoo, producing several litters of pups.


Wildlife Conservation Society_00761_Flying Cage in Winter_BZ_01 00 03.JPG

Bronx Zoo flying cage, January 1903. 

Known today as the Sea Bird Aviary, the flying cage has existed in various manifestations since it first opened in 1900.  In 1995, a much bigger winter storm than the one pictured here caused the original flying cage to collapse.


Wildlife Conservation Society_00874_Tasmanian Wolf_BZ_02 00 03.JPG

Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, at the Bronx Zoo, February 1903. 

Pictured here is the first of four thylacines who lived at the Bronx Zoo between 1902 and 1919. The Bronx Zoo and Smithsonian National Zoo are the only two zoos in the U.S. to ever exhibit this now extinct species. The last known thylacine died at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania in 1936.


Wildlife Conservation Society_00877_Seal of Society_BZ_02 00 03.JPG

Seal of the New York Zoological Society, February 1903. 

The first seal of WCS (known originally as the New York Zoological Society) was designed by the well-known wildlife artist Charles Knight.  The ram’s head reflected the society’s early interest in the conservation of North American animals.


Wildlife Conservation Society_00951_Barbary Lion Sultan_BZ_04 00 03.JPG

Barbary lion Sultan in the Bronx Zoo’s Lion House, April 1903. 

Now extinct in the wild, Barbary lions once roamed North Africa.  Sultan was one of the most famous animals in the early Bronx Zoo.  He was among the earliest residents of the Bronx Zoo’s Lion House and a popular subject for artists and sculptors.  According to the society’s November 1914 Bulletin, Sultan had a “particularly fine mane of rather a dark hue, which pleases the sculptors and painters because it is not too abundant, and does not mask the muscles of the shoulder.”


Wildlife Conservation Society_01034_Barbary Lion Cleopatras Cubs_BZ_05 00 03.JPG

Barbary lion cubs at the Bronx Zoo, May 1903. 

The offspring of Barbary lions Sultan and Bedouin Maid, these cubs were the first to be born at the Bronx Zoo. 


Wildlife Conservation Society_01906_Black-footed Ferret_BZ_07 00 05.JPG

Black-footed ferret at the Bronx Zoo, July 1905. 

During the nineteenth century, black-footed ferrets numbered in the tens of thousands, but by the 1960s, their populations stood on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and disease. Since the 1980s, American zoos have been breeding the species for reintroduction in the American West.


Wildlife Conservation Society_01934_Sunday Visitors in Front of Lion House_MAD_BZ_08 00 05.JPG

Sunday visitors in front of the Bronx Zoo’s Lion House, August 1905. 

The clothes may have changed, but a crowd of visitors on a Sunday is still a familiar site at the Bronx Zoo.


Wildlife Conservation Society_02151_Feeding Sea Lions_SLP_BZ_00 00 05.JPG

Feeding the sea lions, Bronx Zoo, 1905.  

Since the sea lion pool opened in 1905, it has been one of the Bronx Zoo’s most popular exhibits.  In the background, you can see the old Bird House, which was constructed in the same year.


Wildlife Conservation Society_02279_Visitors at Sea Lion Pool_SLP_BZ_08 00 05.JPG

Visitors at the Sea Lion Pool, Bronx Zoo, 1905.  


Wildlife Conservation Society_02534_Service Gallery circa 1905_AQ_00 00 00.JPG

Staff member working behind the scenes at the New York Aquarium, around 1905.


Wildlife Conservation Society_02539_Fish Hatchery circa 1905_AQ_00 00 00.JPG

Fish hatchery at the New York Aquarium, around 1905. 

Each year, the New York Aquarium’s fish hatchery produced several millions of young food and game fishes that were deposited in New York State waters.


Wildlife Conservation Society_02542_New York Aquarium Employees circa 1905_AQ_00 00 00.JPG

New York Aquarium staff members, around 1905.


Wildlife Conservation Society_02544_New York Aquarium Exterior circa 1905_AQ_00 00 00.JPG

New York Aquarium, around 1905. 

The New York Aquarium opened at Castle Clinton in 1896, and in 1902, WCS assumed its management from New York City.  Before it was the New York Aquarium, Castle Clinton had served as a US Army fort, an entertainment center, and an immigration station.


Wildlife Conservation Society_02922_Sculptor and Model at Bear Dens_BZ_02 00 06.JPG

Unidentified sculptor and his model at the Bronx Zoo bear dens, February 1906.


Wildlife Conservation Society_03696_Bison and Young_BZ_07 00 07.JPG

Bison and young at the Bronx Zoo, July 1907. 

Just months after this photo was taken, in October 1907, the American Bison Society would ship 15 bison from the Bronx Zoo’s herd to the Wichita Game and Forest Reserve in Oklahoma.  This was the first step in a successful multi-year effort to repopulate the bison of the American West.


Wildlife Conservation Society_03801_Axis Deer Herd_BZ_10 00 07.JPG

Axis deer herd at the Bronx Zoo, October 1907.


Wildlife Conservation Society_03824_Three-toed Sloth circa 1907_BZ_00 00 00.JPG

Three-toed sloth at the Bronx Zoo, around 1907. 

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays, 5:30 p.m. weekends from April to October; 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m November to March. Adult admission is $16.95, children (3-12 years old) $12.95, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $14.95. Parking is $15 for cars and $18 for buses. The Bronx Zoo is conveniently located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit or call 718-367-1010. Follow @TheBronxZoo.