Wildlife Conservation Society publishes digital archive of historical illustrations, see photos


The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently released a digital collection of approximately 2,200 forgotten historical scientific illustrations of wildlife from its Department of Tropical Research (DTR), which it managed from 1916 to 1965. According to one Press release, illustrations include montages of deep-water fish from another world, majestic portraits of sloths, strange insects, brightly colored birds, snakes, frogs and other wildlife. It’s worth mentioning that DTR worked at a time when photography couldn’t capture color and motion. Therefore, illustrators were essential to document the species and present these species to the technical and popular public.

Dr Madeleine Thompson, Director of the WCS Library and Archives, said: “While most environmentalists today use digital cameras, in the days of DTR they relied on artists to document their findings. . The illustrations in these archives are of artistic beauty, but also important scientific documents of what, at the time, were wild species often unknown to the Western public ”.

According to the press briefing, the DTR was headed by the Bronx Zoo’s first curator and renowned naturalist William Beebe. The department was a division of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the site where the DTR worked included British Guiana (now Guyana), the Galapagos Islands, the Hudson Canyon, Bermuda, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Venezuela and Trinidad. DTR staff included scientists and artists who worked collaboratively to document the species they observed and collected.

WCS Digital Collection Project

Additionally, the DTR is notable for including women on its staff at a time when there were a few female artists who traveled on expeditions and few female scientists. The department has published for scientific audiences and illustrators have appeared in technical publications. But DTR’s biggest impact was on the audience.

Meanwhile, the digital collection project was completed by WCS Library and Archives staff. According to the press release, the Library and Archives are advancing knowledge in support of WCS’s mission to save wildlife and wild places. It provides information services to foster WCS leadership in science curation, it preserves WCS’s strong record of business, and enhances understanding of WCS’s rich heritage.

(Images: WCS / website)

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