Historic Maps and Photos of the National Zoo

This post was written in collaboration with Carla Simms

The National Zoo in Washington D.C. is one of the capital’s most celebrated landmarks.  The zoo was created by an act of congress in 1889, and officially made a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution the following year.  Since its founding, the zoo has been a pioneer in architectural design, animal care, science and education.  Over the years, the wildlife preserve has attracted millions of visitors, enchanting both young and old with its fascinating animals and captivating history.

Photograph of the East Entrance of National Zoo in Washington, D.C., 1919. Local ID: 30-N-21003

Photograph of the East Entrance of National Zoo in Washington, D.C., 1919. Local ID:  Local ID: 30-N-21003.

The Special Media Division at the National Archives maintains a wide variety of records related to the National Zoo.  Records in this blog range from cartographic plans from the National Park Service, to images of Smokey Bear, the real-life animal that inspired the iconic Forrest Service cartoon.  Also included are images of Hsing-Hsing, the Giant Panda symbolic of President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, photographs from the Bureau of Public Roads, and photos from the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service.

Friends of the National Zoo, Tours and Classes. Local ID: 368-RP-47-2.

Friends of the National Zoo, Tours and Classes. Local ID: 368-RP-47-2.

RG 77, CWMF, F-113-6

Topographical Sketch of the Environs of Washington, D.C. Outline of Zoological Park outlined in blue on this map, dated Dec. 2, 1890 (RG 77, CWMF, F-113-6)

Much like a zoo, the National Archives preserves and provides access to holdings that people would otherwise not have the opportunity to see.  The diversity of records pertaining to the National Zoo emphasizes its cultural significance.   With summer in full swing, now is the perfect time to see your favorite animals in Washington D.C. or at a zoo near you.

Male giant panda, Hsing-Hsing, eating bamboo at the National Zoo. Local ID: 368-RP-49-4.

Male giant panda, Hsing-Hsing, eating bamboo at the National Zoo. Local ID: 368-RP-49-4.

Smokey Bear in his cage at the Zoo in Washington, D.C. his home away from home, 1950. Local ID: 95-GP-117-501947.

Smokey Bear in his cage at the Zoo in Washington, D.C. his home away from home, 1950. Local ID: 95-GP-117-501947.

RG 79, National Capital Parks Numbered Drawings, 844-89008

Map of the National Zoological Park, Washington, DC, 1910 (RG 79, National Capital Parks Numbered Drawings, 844-89008)

RG 328, Numbered Maps and Plans, 2.00 (05.20)-20471

Master Plan for the National Zoological Park, prepared for The Friends of the National Zoo, November 1960 (RG 328, Numbered Maps and Plans, 2.00 (05.20)-20471)

RG 121, Consolidated File, Washington, DC, National Zoo, #1

Plan for An Exhibition Building for Pachyderms, September 23, 1935 (RG 121, Consolidated File, Washington, DC, National Zoo, #1)

This entry was posted in Digitization, Maps, Photographs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Historic Maps and Photos of the National Zoo

  1. Darlene McClurkin says:

    Nice images! The National Archives also holds architectural drawings of frieze and floor medallion detail designs for the National Zoological Park’s Elephant House. These large-scale drawings were created in the 1930s by noted nature artist Charles R. Knight for the Works of Art Project, one of the Federal government’s New Deal programs, and are now part of the Records of the Public Buildings Service. The drawings were on display in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, as part of the “BIG!” exhibit from March 13, 2009, through January 3, 2010. Images of the drawings can be found in the National Archives Online Catalog at https://catalog.archives.gov/. The frieze design is NAID number 2594195 and the medallion design is NAID number 2594557.

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