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New York Aquarium. Senior Staff records

 Collection
Identifier: 3054
The collection includes records from several upper-level employees of the New York Aquarium [NYA]. In many cases the files appear to be of mixed provenance, but as a whole the collection is organized roughly chronologically, in five small series that each pertain to one or two staff offices. The first series, which is the most mixed, includes records from NYA Business Manager Jewell Bungay and the three NYA Directors (Christopher W. Coates, Paul L. Montreuil, and Ross F. Nigrelli) for whom she worked. The files largely pertain to the Aquarium’s financial and administrative operations. The second series, consisting of records from NYA Curator Stephen Spotte and Assistant Curator H. Doug Kemper, document the Aquarium’s exhibits, animals, and animal personnel. The third series is composed of files kept by NYA Director James A. Oliver, and—in addition to documenting the Aquarium’s exhibits, personnel, and operations—also include materials pertaining to Coney Island residents and amusements. The next series contains records that had originally come from the files of George D. Ruggieri, S.J., who held director-level positions and both NYA and the Aquarium’s Osborn Laboratories of Marine Sciences. The files primarily date from the time of William S. Flynn’s tenure as NYA Assistant Director, and concern the Aquarium’s 1978 Palau expedition and its Whale and Dolphin Stadium. Finally, the last series consists of files from William Flynn and Collection Manager Pedro Ponciano, and focuses on the Aquarium’s operations and collecting efforts.

Dates

  • Majority of material found within 1964 - 1979
  • 1955-1979

Creator

Access Restrictions

Certain portions of this collection are subject to access restrictions. Please contact the WCS Archives regarding these restrictions.

Usage Restrictions

Please contact the WCS Archives regarding possible usage restrictions.

Extent

1.45 linear feet (1 carton, 1 half-Hollinger box)

Overview

The collection holds correspondence, administrative and operational records, subject files, and other materials from directors, curators, and other senior staff at the New York Aquarium. After a long closure, the New York Zoological Society [NYZS] reopened the New York Aquarium [NYA] in its new location on Coney Island in 1957, with Director Christopher W. Coates at the helm. Coates’s 1964 retirement, however, heralded the start of over a decade of high turnover for the Aquariums directors and curators. This ever-changing leadership nevertheless shepherded the Aquarium through a transitional period characterized by New York City’s changing demographics and increasing financial difficulties; from 1964 to 1979 the Aquarium added and expanded exhibits for sharks and marine mammals and continued its education, research, and collection efforts. The materials in the collection come from the files of NYA Directors Christopher W. Coates, Paul L. Montreuil, Ross F. Nigrelli, James A. Oliver, and George D. Ruggieri, as well as from several other Aquarium senior staff members, including Jewell Bungay, William S. Flynn, H. Doug Kemper, Pedro Ponciano, and Stephen Spotte. The records document the day-to-day operations of the Aquarium, in particular its animal exhibits and its finances, as well as its collecting expeditions and the construction and renovation of exhibits.

Historical Note

After a long closure, the New York Zoological Society [NYZS] reopened the New York Aquarium [NYA] in its new location on Coney Island in 1957, with Director Christopher W. Coates at the helm. The NYA’s modernized exhibits opened to much fanfare and were hugely successful. Coates’s 1964 retirement, however, heralded the start of over a decade of high turnover in the NYA’s Director’s Office, with even more intense turmoil in the Curator’s position. From the beginning of 1964 through the end of 1979 the Aquarium was host to five Directors, four Assistant or Associate Directors, and eleven Curators, Associate Curators, and Assistant Curators. This ever-changing leadership nevertheless shepherded the Aquarium through a transitional period characterized by New York City’s changing demographics and increasing financial difficulties. The Aquarium expanded its facilities with the addition of new or expanded exhibits for sharks and marine mammals, especially cetaceans; meanwhile the Aquarium’s education, research, and collection efforts all continued and expanded. The high turnover of NYA Directors ended in 1976, when George D. Ruggieri, SJ, assumed the position. Ruggieri was a marine biologist and Jesuit priest who had risen steadily through the ranks of leadership at the Aquarium. His tenure as Director, which ended with his passing in December of 1987, marked a new period of stability and sustained growth for the institution.

[For a more thorough history of the New York Aquarium (1902-2014), including a complete list of NYA Directors, see the finding aid for Collection 3001: New York Aquarium records, circa 1900-1998 (bulk 1960-1990).]

Chronology of NYA Directors and Curators, 1955-1979
  • 1955 Director: None. Curator: Christopher W. Coates
  • 1956 Director: Christopher W. Coates Curator: None
  • 1957-1960 Director: Christopher W. Coates. Curator: James W. Atz (Associate Curator)
  • 1961-1962 Director: Christopher W. Coates Curator: James W. Atz. (Carleton Ray, Associate Curator)
  • 1963 Director: Christopher W. Coates Curator: Paul L. Montreuil. (Carleton Ray, Associate Curator)
  • 1964 Directors: Christopher W. Coates, then Paul L. Montreuil Curator: Carleton Ray
  • 1965 Director: Paul L. Montreuil Curator: Carleton Ray. (Joseph R. Geraci, Associate Curator)
  • 1966 Directors: Paul L. Montreuil, then Ross F. Nigrelli Curator: Robert A. Morris (Associate Curator)
  • 1967 Director: Ross F. Nigrelli Curator: Robert A. Morris
  • 1968-1969 Director: Ross F. Nigrelli Curator: Robert A. Morris. (Uwe Erich Friese, Assistant Curator)
  • 1970 Directors: Ross F. Nigrelli, then James A. Oliver Curator: John Clark
  • 1971 Director: James A. Oliver Curator: H. Doug Kemper (Assistant Curator, stayed on until mid 1972)
  • 1972 Director: James A. Oliver Curator: Stephen H. Spotte (started late 1971)
  • 1973 Director: James A. Oliver. (George D. Ruggieri, Associate Director) Curator: William S. Flynn
  • 1974-1976 Director: James A. Oliver. (George D. Ruggieri, Associate Director; William S. Flynn, Assistant Director) Curator: None
  • 1976-1977 Director: George D. Ruggieri. (William S. Flynn, Assistant Director, stayed until November 1978) Curators: Klaus Kallman (Fishes), Kenneth Gold (Protists), and Martin F. Stempien (Invertebrates)
  • 1978-1979 Director: George D. Ruggieri. (Uwe Erich Friese, Deputy Director) Curators: Klaus Kallman (Fishes), Kenneth Gold (Protists), and Paul L. Cheung (Assistant Curator, Invertebrates)
Chronology of NYA Directors and Curators, 1955-1979
1955
Director: None.
Curator: Christopher W. Coates
1956
Director: Christopher W. Coates
Curator: None
1957-1960
Director: Christopher W. Coates.
Curator: James W. Atz (Associate Curator)
1961-1962
Director: Christopher W. Coates
Curator: James W. Atz. (Carleton Ray, Associate Curator)
1963
Director: Christopher W. Coates
Curator: Paul L. Montreuil. (Carleton Ray, Associate Curator)
1964
Directors: Christopher W. Coates, then Paul L. Montreuil
Curator: Carleton Ray
1965
Director: Paul L. Montreuil
Curator: Carleton Ray. (Joseph R. Geraci, Associate Curator)
1966
Directors: Paul L. Montreuil, then Ross F. Nigrelli
Curator: Robert A. Morris (Associate Curator)
1967
Director: Ross F. Nigrelli
Curator: Robert A. Morris
1968-1969
Director: Ross F. Nigrelli
Curator: Robert A. Morris. (Uwe Erich Friese, Assistant Curator)
1970
Directors: Ross F. Nigrelli, then James A. Oliver
Curator: John Clark
1971
Director: James A. Oliver
Curator: H. Doug Kemper (Assistant Curator, stayed on until mid 1972)
1972
Director: James A. Oliver
Curator: Stephen H. Spotte (started late 1971)
1973
Director: James A. Oliver. (George D. Ruggieri, Associate Director)
Curator: William S. Flynn
1974-1976
Director: James A. Oliver. (George D. Ruggieri, Associate Director; William S. Flynn, Assistant Director)
Curator: None
1976-1977
Director: George D. Ruggieri. (William S. Flynn, Assistant Director, stayed until November 1978)
Curators: Klaus Kallman (Fishes), Kenneth Gold (Protists), and Martin F. Stempien (Invertebrates)
1978-1979
Director: George D. Ruggieri. (Uwe Erich Friese, Deputy Director)
Curators: Klaus Kallman (Fishes), Kenneth Gold (Protists), and Paul L. Cheung (Assistant Curator, Invertebrates)

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in five series:
Series 1
NYA Business Manager’s and Director’s Offices [Jewell Bungay, Christopher W. Coates, Paul L. Montreuil, and Ross F. Nigrelli], 1955-1969 (bulk 1964-1969)
Series 2
NYA Curator’s Office [Stephen Spotte and Howard Doug Kemper, Jr.], 1955-1973 (bulk 1971-1973)
Series 3
NYA Director’s Office [James A. Oliver], 1970-1976
Series 4
OLMS Director’s Office files borrowed and amended by NYA Assistant Directors [George D. Ruggieri, William S. Flynn, and Uwe Erich Friese], 1974-1979
Series 5
NYA Assistant Director’s Office [William S. Flynn and Pedro (Pete) Ponciano], 1966-1979 (bulk 1974-1978)

Other Finding Aids

The Wildlife Conservation Society Archives holds additional descriptive information pertaining to this collection; please contact the archivist for more detail.

Acquisition Information

Internal transfer, 1980 (Acc. 1980.148).

Internal transfer, 1982 (Acc. 1982.005).

Creator

Title
Guide to the records of the New York Aquarium Senior Staff, 1955-1979 (bulk 1964-1979)
Status
Published
Author
Finding aid prepared by Leilani Dawson
Date
August 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Revision Statements

  • April 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