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Wildlife Conservation Society. Office of General Director. William G. Conway records

 Fonds
Identifier: 1028
William G. Conway’s records provide a sustained view of the evolution of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the zoological profession, and the conservation field. The bulk of the material consists of annual correspondence, administrative records of the Society, and records pertaining to Conway’s involvement with organizations outside of the Society. There is significant overlap of people, organizations, and subjects between the series; for the fullest view of a topic, each location should be checked for relevant material. Major themes in the correspondence include the Society and its facilities, Society staff and associates, the Society and the world, and trends in conservation and the zoo profession. The Administrative files contain Conway’s records of Society business and pertain to the management of the Society as a whole, of its zoos and aquarium, or of its national and international conservation programs. The records in the Organizations series pertain to Conway’s involvement in and dealings with national and international zoo and conservation organizations, individual zoos and aquariums, New York City and New York State governmental and cultural institutions, animal rights organizations, foundations and other funders, and various corporate bodies. They document the rise of the conservation field, the changing role of zoos, the place of the Society among other New York cultural institutions, and Conway’s own role as a leading voice among conservation advocates. The collection also contains Conway’s subject files, writings, research notes, and the files from his post-presidential position as Senior Conservationist.

The collection includes a fair amount of visual and/or non-paper materials, including photographs and slides, architectural and exhibit drawings in various formats and media, maps and illustrations, and the occasional feather, analog reel, or digital item. The collection inventory contains detailed information on the location of these items.

Dates

  • Majority of material found within 1960 - 2003
  • 1900 - 2004

Creator

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.

Extent

136.8 linear feet (54 records cartons, 163 Hollinger boxes, 18 half-Hollinger boxes, and 1 half-carton)

0.84 cubic feet (4 cardfile boxes)

Overview

The collection contains the records of William G. Conway, General Director and President of the New York Zoological Society (which became the Wildlife Conservation Society) and Ornithology Curator and Director of the Society’s Bronx Zoo. During his 43 years at the Society, Conway oversaw the growth of the organization’s international conservation programs, a wave of development at the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium, the acquisition of the Wildlife Survival Center on Saint Catherines Island, and the takeover of the management of the three City Zoos that had formerly been run by New York City. Conway’s records provide a sustained view of the evolution of the Society, the zoological profession, and the conservation field. The bulk of the material consists of annual correspondence, administrative records of the Society, and records pertaining to Conway’s involvement with organizations outside of the Society. The collection also contains Conway’s subject files, writings, research notes, and the files from his post-presidential position as Senior Conservationist.

Biographical Note

In 1956 William G. Conway came to the New York Zoological Society from his hometown zoo in Saint Louis, where he had briefly pursued herpetology before setting on what would become a life-long commitment to ornithology. As the Bronx Zoo’s Curator of Ornithology, Conway conducted observational and behavioral studies on birds both in the zoo and out in the field, especially in South America, publishing his findings in scholarly and popular journals. During these early years, he oversaw the planning and construction of the new Aquatic Bird House and introduced the zoo audience to his research and field work through exhibits and through numerous articles in the Society’s magazine, Animal Kingdom.

Conway rose quickly through the ranks of NYZS leadership, being named Director of the Bronx Zoo in just five years and General Director of the Society five years after that. With these expanded roles, Conway created an Exhibits and Graphic Arts department and oversaw a wave of development at the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium. By the end of Conway’s second decade at NYZS, the Zoo and Aquarium had opened several major new exhibits, including Wolf Wood, the World of Darkness, and the World of Birds at the Zoo, and a shark exhibit and the Whale and Dolphin Stadium at the Aquarium. After another twenty years, Conway’s role had increased again as he was named President of the now-renamed Wildlife Conservation Society, and he had overseen another wave of development at the Society’s New York facilities, including the Wild Asia, Jungle World, and Congo exhibits at the Bronx Zoo; Sea Cliffs, a rebuilt Shark Tank, and Discovery Cove at the Aquarium; and the management of three zoos that had formerly been run by New York City.

In the meantime, Conway actively facilitated the growth of the Society’s international wildlife conservation programs. Under his auspices, the Institute for Research in Animal Behavior--the Society’s collaboration with Rockefeller University--included field researchers as well as lab scientists. Those field researchers formed the core of the Society’s Center for Field Biology and Conservation, which Conway inaugurated in the early 1970s alongside its first official Conservation Department. In the early 1980s Conway merged the Department with the Center into a reorganized Animal Research and Conservation Center, which eventually grew into the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Global Conservation department. Along the way the Society’s conservation departments have aided in or been directly responsible for the creation of scores of new parks and reserves in dozens of countries.

Conway has also been a leader in the zoo profession and the conservation field. While he has held numerous official positions--including President of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and a Director not only of that group, but also of the National Audubon Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, and many others--his longer-lasting impact lies in the innovations he has brought to the profession. These include his push for the accreditation of zoos, his major efforts on behalf of legislation regulating and banning the skin trade, the foundation of the Species Survival Program, and many similar efforts to promote both in-situ and ex-situ conservation of vanishing species.

After his retirement from its presidency, Conway continued on at the Wildlife Conservation Society for another five years as Senior Conservationist. During this period he retained his close involvement with the Society’s Latin America Program, coordinating several projects in South America’s Southern Cone and continuing his own field work with flamingos, penguins, and other wildlife in Patagonia and the Andes.
NYZS/WCS Career Chronology
1956-1972
Assistant Curator & Curator, Ornithology
1961-1999
Director, Bronx Zoo
1966-1999
General Director, NYZS/WCS
1973-1974
Chairman, Ornithology
1992-1999
President, NYZS/WCS
1999-2004
Senior Conservationist and Trustee

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in the following series and subseries
Series 1
Correspondence, 1950-1998 (bulk 1960-1998)
Subseries 1.1
1960-1998 Annual correspondence, 1950-1998 (bulk 1960-1998)
Subseries 1.2
Formerly-restricted correspondence, 1951-1967
Series 2
Topical files, 1907-1999 (bulk 1950-1999)
Subseries 2.1
Administrative files, 1907-1999 (bulk 1950s-1990s)
Subseries 2.2
Organization files, 1950-1999
Subseries 2.3
Subject files, 1921-1999 (bulk 1950s-1990s)
Series 3
Writings and research, 1950s-2004
Subseries 3.1
Writings, 1950s-2004
Subseries 3.2
Research index card files, 1950s-1961
Series 4
Accession 2006.002: Senior Conservationist Records, 1900s-2004 (bulk 1990-2004)
Subseries 4.1
Correspondence, 1997-2004
Subseris 4.2
Administrative, organization, and subject files, 1900s-2004 (bulk 1990-2004)
Series 5
Objects and artifacts, circa 1980s

Acquisition Information

Internal transfer, 1979 (Acc. 1979.010).

Internal transfer, 1981 (Acc. 1981.231).

Internal transfer, 1982 (Acc. 1982.004).

Internal transfer, 1983 (Acc. 1983.011).

Internal transfer, 1985 (Acc. 1985.011).

Internal transfer, 1987 (Acc. 1987.004).

Internal transfer, 1987 (Acc. 1987.005).

Internal transfer, 1987 (Acc. 1987.007).

Internal transfer, 1987 (Acc. 1987.008).

Internal transfer, 1987 (Acc. 1987.009).

Internal transfer, 1989 (Acc. 1989.009).

Internal transfer, 1989 (Acc. 1989.011).

Internal transfer, 1989 (Acc. 1989.012).

Internal transfer, 1990 (Acc. 1990.006).

Internal transfer, 1992 (Acc. 1992.003).

Internal transfer, 1992 (Acc. 1992.007).

Internal transfer, 1994 (Acc. 1994.009).

Internal transfer, 1994 (Acc. 1994.012).

Internal transfer, 1994 (Acc. 1994.013).

Internal transfer, 1998 (Acc. 1998.008).

Internal transfer, 1998 (Acc. 1998.009).

Internal transfer, 1999 (Acc. 1999.002).

Internal transfer, 1999 (Acc. 1999.026).

Internal transfer, 2000 (Acc. 2000.003).

Internal transfers, 2004-2006 (Acc. 2006.002).

Internal transfer, 2006 (Acc. 2006.022).

More information on these accessions is available from the WCS archives.
Title
Guide to the Records of the General Director William G. Conway, circa 1900-2004 (bulk 1960-2003)
Status
Published
Author
Finding aid prepared by Leilani Dawson, Processing Archivist
Date
June 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Revision Statements

  • July 2014: Added Conway's annual correspondence files for Laurance S. Rockefeller, which had been removed from the collection at some point before 2011.
  • March 2018: Finding aid entered into ArchivesSpace by Sana Masood.

Repository Details

Part of the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives Repository

Contact:
WCS Library/Archives
2300 Southern Blvd
Bronx New York 10460 United States