Fonds MSG 1164 - Zoological Society of Montreal fonds

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Zoological Society of Montreal fonds

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  • Source of title proper: Title derived from the contents of the fonds.

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  • 1964-2016 (Creation)
    Zoological Society of Montreal

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Physical description

104.8 cm of textual records and other materials

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Administrative history

The Zoological Society of Montreal was founded in 1964 as a support for the creation of a zoo in Montreal. This founding project was shelved for lack of funding but the Society lived on under the direction of Gerald T. Iles, the former head of The Manchester Zoological Gardens. The Zoological Society’s help in the creation of the Montreal Aquarium and Dolphin Arena (1967-1991) at Expo ‘67 cemented the organization as a leader in zoological practice and wildlife conservation. From its founding, the driving objectives of the Society were “to promote and develop among the public an interest in, and knowledge of, wildlife and to encourage the study of biology and kindred sciences; To encourage the protection of wildlife and, in particular, the wildlife of Canada; and to publish a journal, to hold regular meetings and to organize field trips.” [1] Their primary mandate was to bring attention to conservation issues that plagued the wildlife of Canada.

In 1969, the Society incorporated a new organization under its umbrella, the Zoological Society of Canada (1969-2011). Although the Canadian Society ran under the same direction and administration as the Montreal Society, the name was adopted to give the Society recognition in national affairs. The name would come into use and disuse at different points in the Society’s existence, depending on its project aims at the time. During its early period, the Society became heavily involved in Expo ’67, and the exhibition that followed named Man and His World. In 1967, when its proposal for an ark pavilion devoted to wildlife was turned down, Iles turned his attention to caring for two lion cubs brought to Montreal to be part of the Ethiopian pavilion. In 1975, the Society won the contract to open its own pavilion at Man and His World, which was entitled “Vanishing Wildlife” and ran successfully for four years. This monetary success allowed the Society to open its first office in downtown Montreal in 1976.

In subsequent years, the Society continued to focus on diverse projects such as a proposed wildlife park in Montreal’s West Island and other nature reserves around Quebec. Members also concentrated on hosting events, guest lectures, and field trips. Although most trips were in or around Quebec, they also made safaris to Africa, South America, and the Galapagos Islands. Prominent guest lecturers included author Farley Mowat, Jane Goodall, British naturalist Gerald Durrell, and artist David Bateman. At the same time, the Society became greatly involved in whale watching and conservation, and became the first organization to host whale watching excursions in the St. Lawrence River. They organized whale watching trips each summer. Apart from events and excursions, the Zoological Society focused its attention on effecting change on a government and societal level. They donated to zoological and conservationist causes, adopted animals and plants, and often lobbied government officials on environmental issues.

The Society began with 30 members and grew to around 800 members at its peak, including students, professionals, and hobbyists. It was organized through an Executive Committee with a president at its head and a group of directors. There were also committees formed at different points in time including the Nominating Committee, responsible for nominating other committees, the Park Committee, responsible for creating a wildlife park in Montreal, and the Project Committee, formed in 1970 under George Midgley, who organized the year’s activities. The Zoological Society dissolved in June 2016, citing a lack of membership and volunteers as its cause.

Prominent members of the Society include:
John Norris (president)
Gerald T. Iles (managing director)
Kathryn H. Mason (president)
Margaret Kunstler (president)
Marlene Harris (president)
George Midgley (president)

[1] “A Brief History of our First Twenty-Five Years” publication, in MSG1164, file c5.f18

Custodial history

Originally stored in the home of Gerald Iles, the records were moved to the Society’s downtown office space in 1976. Fonds was donated by the Society to McGill University Library Rare Books and Special Collections in February 2017.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of the records of the Zoological Society of Montreal for the entirety of its existence, from 1964-2016. These records were generated in the pursuit of the Zoological Society’s goal to enhance public awareness of wildlife conservation issues through speakers, film screenings, field trips, special events, and large projects. The records also reflect the Society's charity to zoological, ecological and conservation causes. The administration of the Society, its interactions with its members, and its projects and events are documented through minutes, correspondence, communications, published articles, financial documents, reports, and proposals. The Society’s interests and activities are also reflected through books, objects from their offices, audio and video materials, and 5243 photographs, most of which are stored in photo albums. The fonds also contains the records of the Zoological Society of Canada, which were created to administer the Canadian Society similarly to the Montreal Society, with the goal of expanding the organization’s reach nationally.

The fonds is comprised of the following series: 1) Activities (1965-2013); 2) Administration (1964-2016); 3) Artifacts (1980-2004); 4) Books (1967-1991); and 5) Newsletters (1967-2016).

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Physical condition

Upon donation to McGill, files were refoldered and reboxed. For photo albums that were not archival quality, photographs were removed from albums and rehoused for long-term preservation.

Immediate source of acquisition


The records are arranged chronologically within series. Photographs in albums are physically and intellectually arranged chronologically, and then physically arranged by trip/event within each album. File identifiers are composed of container number.file number.

Language of material

  • English
  • French

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Primarily English, with some French materials.

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Open, subject to privacy legislation.

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Physical description

2 audiocassettes
5 objects (keychain, novelty cheque, 2 plaques, and seal)
5243 photographs
2 videocassettes

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Finding aid prepared by Anna Haywood.

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Physical storage

  • Box: MSG1164-1
  • Box: MSG1164-2
  • Box: MSG1164-3
  • Box: MSG1164-4
  • Box: MSG1164-5
  • Box: MSG1164-6
  • Box: MSG1164-7
  • Box: MSG1164-8
  • Box: MSG1164-9
  • Box: MSG1164-10
  • Box: MSG1164-11
  • Box: MSG1164-12