The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Library and Archives has been awarded a multiyear grant from the Leon Levy Foundation to preserve its historical film collection. 

Dating from the 1920s through the 1980s, the unique contents of this collection document the history of the Wildlife Conservation Society, including early activities at its Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, as well as the progression of its field conservation program over the course of the twentieth century.  Further still, these historical films portray the broader intertwined history of zoos and wildlife conservation efforts.  Some were created as primary research efforts by zoologists and other scientists studying wildlife and their habitats; others were created as educational resources to inform the public about wildlife and conservation.

In June 2022, Leopold Krist was selected as the WCS Shelby White and Leon Levy Film Archivist.  He has begun the project’s primary activity to assess, catalog, and rehouse the collection, which numbers nearly 3,000 reels.  The grant will also allow for a selection of the films to be digitized and made publicly accessible online from the WCS Library and Archives website by the expected project completion date of December 2023.    

Some highlights just starting to be unearthed from the collection include films and footage of:  

  • William Beebe’s Department of Tropical Research expeditions to the Galapagos Islands, Bermuda, Venezuela, and Trinidad between the 1920s and 1960s. 
  • WCS’s field research station in Jackson Hole Wildlife Park in the 1940s. 
  • George Schaller’s field research trips from the Brooks Range in Alaska in the late 1950s and the Serengeti in the 1960s. 
  • Carleton Ray’s study of Weddell seals near Antarctic bases during the late 1960s.  

The Library & Archives advances knowledge in support of WCS’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.

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: