Artefact of the Month - August 2011. Archives overview.
Based in the Library of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Archives of ZSL are a range of records of interest to researchers into Zoo History. The majority of the records have been produced as a result of ZSL’s activities. The main use of the Archives will be for the history of ZSL itself and the zoos it owns: London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo; however there are other uses as varied as family history and studies of culture and society.
Examples found amongst the many items are:
Minutes of Committees
- Minutes of Council. Dating from 1826 to the present, these are perhaps the most important of the records, as they detail the decision-making of the Council of Fellows that run the Society.
- Minutes of the General Meetings. These are the Fellows’ AGMs.
- Minutes of the Gardens Committee (i.e. London Zoo)
- Minutes of the Whipsnade Committee
Daily Occurrences of London Zoo and Whipsnade. Completed daily, these list the arrivals and departures, births and deaths of animals at London Zoo and Whipsnade. Other details mentioned in some of the books are numbers of visitors and money taken, particular visitors, keepers absent, unwell animals, building works, temperatures in the animal houses, and weather.
Staff cards. A very useful resource for people tracing ancestors that worked at ZSL. The cards cover all sorts of jobs at London Zoo, Whipsnade and the ZSL Main Offices, including zoo keepers, accountants, carpenters and librarians.
19th Century Letter Collection. These letters are mainly from Fellows to the Secretary of ZSL. Sadly, there are no replies. Authors include: Darwin, Abraham Bartlett, the Duke of Bedford, Wallace, and Barnum.
Ephemera (or in this case perhaps ‘Zoophemera’). For example: London and Whipsnade Zoo guides, posters and leaflets, Music Hall songsheets.
Non-ZSL donated items. Includes collections of letters from the Buckland family, Brian Hodgson and Joan Procter; also the papers of the Association of British Zoologists.
There are, of course, many other types of records, including: medals, tickets, a keeper’s uniform, post-mortem books, menus, press-cuttings albums, charters, maps and plans.
Using the Archives
The Archives have not yet been fully catalogued, and so finding specific information can be time-consuming. A project to list the Archives is currently being carried out.
The Archive catalogue can be searched online at: http://library.zsl.org
The catalogue lists books and artworks as well as archives, but the search can be narrowed to apply only to archival material.
It is free to use the Archives and Library; however an appointment needs to be made in advance so that archives can be retrieved. Proof of address and photo ID need to be shown unless the user is already a member of the Library or of ZSL.