Dinosaurs in the Archives

Archives in a Box Dinosaurs in the Archives

Activity introduction


The City of Calgary Archives has created an online activity for students that provides them with the experience of researching archival materials.  Students will review correspondence, reports, photographs, newspaper articles and other unique records that can be found at the City of Calgary Archives to learn more about the dinosaurs at the Calgary Zoo.

This activity contains a question sheet along with 16 documents that are tied to the first 14 questions.  The last question invites the students to reflect on their experience. 

Don’t worry teachers, we have provided an answer key to help you out.

Class opening presentation


To get you started, we have created a brief presentation to set the stage for your class.  It introduces the activity and lets your students know what to expect. 

Now that we have set the stage, the documents for this activity are located below.  You can choose to have your students work online or print out copies of the records that appear below.

Document list


1. Natural History Park Turned Over

1. Natural History Park Turned Over – The Calgary Herald, August 26th, 1937, page 9.  Originally published in The Calgary Herald, a Division of Postmedia Network Inc.

Newpapers are an excellent source of information on what was happening on a given day and they often provide a sense of what life was like at the time.

2. Dinosaurs Dancing and the Birth of a Prehistoric Park

2. Dinosaurs Dancing and the Birth of a Prehistoric Park – City of Calgary Newsroom, March 20, 2019

The City of Calgary will often do reflective pieces that can provide interesting information on historic landmarks.  The accuracy of that historical information can be dependent on how well the topic was researched and the sources that were used.

3. City Clerk’s Correspondence

3. City Clerk’s Correspondence – 1936

The City Clerk’s Office was often the central access point for business with the City – like today’s 311 Service.  The City Clerk’s records are often a good place to start your research and discover what departments were responsible for the topic you are researching.  In this case, The Calgary Zoological Society and the Parks and Recreation Department were responsible for the running of the Calgary Zoo in the 1930’s.

4. Dinosaur Man Scrapbook

4. Dinosaur Man Scrapbook – The Calgary Zoological Society

Some of the interesting records that can find their way into the archives are personal records that made their way to the City.  One of these records is a Scrapbook - likely created by a student for a school project - that was given to the Calgary Zoological Society.  This scrapbook contains unique information about the creation of the Zoo’s dinosaur models.

5. Problems at the Zoo

5. Problems at the Zoo – City Clerk’s Office Correspondence 1937

It is always interesting how some problems continue over time.  Vandalism and theft continue to be a challenge for us today, and the ways that we try to protect against it have not changed much over the years.

6a. Parks Annual Report

6a. Parks Annual Report – Parks and Recreation Department 1936

Annual reporting is required for all city departments and is an excellent source of information and is helpful to identify when certain activities may have taken place.  The information is often reliable as it was written by the people who were responsible for making sure that the work was done as planned.  The City of Calgary Archives has most of the Parks and Recreation Department Annual Reports scanned and available on their website.

6b. Zoos – Calgary Zoo – Dinosaur Models

6b. Zoos – Calgary Zoo – Dinosaur Models – Reference File

The City of Calgary Archives has a collection of files on topics that are of common interest to researchers.  They often contain a mix of official records from the archives, popular photographs, or news articles and are often an easy way to locate other interesting records in the Archives.  The reference folder for the dinosaur models at the Calgary Zoo contains several interesting records including a collection of photographs showing most of the dinosaur models located in the Prehistoric Park.

7. Parks Annual Report

7. Parks Annual Report – Parks and Recreation Department 1937

Annual Reports at The City of Calgary were used to not only communicate work completed by departments but to show how budget dollars were spent to City Council.  

8. Public Request for Recognition

8. Public Request for Recognition – City Clerk’s Office Correspondence 1969

We often find correspondence from Calgary’s citizens bringing issues to City Council’s attention.  Common topics that appear over the years include issues with pets, sidewalks, and neighbors!  This group of correspondence demonstrates how the City Clerk’s office would redirect questions to other departments to provide the most accurate information.  If you have questions or concerns, you too can write to the City.

9. Meet the Brontosaurus – High on Size, Low on Brains

9. Meet the Brontosaurus – High on Size, Low on Brains... - The Calgary Herald, August 28, 1937, page 23.  Originally published in The Calgary Herald, a Division of Postmedia Network Inc.

The creation of giant dinosaurs at the Calgary Zoo was big news.  People were fascinated with these giants and the Prehistoric Park became a major tourist attraction. 

10. The Honker

10. The Honker – The Calgary Zoo Newsletter Spring 1955

The Calgary Zoological Society created a newsletter for visitors and some of them are available at the City of Calgary Archives.  These newsletters contain information on the animals at the zoo, the staff that looked after them and the different events and activities that took place.

11. Calgary’s Natural History Park

11. Calgary’s Natural History Park – The Honker, The Calgary Zoo Newsletter Spring 1957

The City of Calgary Zoo’s newsletter was used to draw attention to new or improved exhibits.  This information can be helpful if you are trying to identify when something happened.  These stories often provide details that are not easily found in other sources.

12. Calgary’s Prehistoric Zoo

12. Calgary’s Prehistoric Zoo  - Prehistoric Times Winter 2006

The City of Calgary was very successful in promoting the Prehistoric Park.  They were so successful that they were featured in a US magazine with an international audience of dinosaur lovers!

13. Dinny, Calgary’s oldest dino will not go extinct anytime soon

13. Dinny, Calgary’s oldest dino will not go extinct anytime soon - CTV News June 29, 2021

The City of Calgary Archives is often contacted to provide information on Calgary Landmarks.  The Calgary Zoo dinosaurs is one topic that continues to be of interest to the public.  The collection of records and news articles into our Reference Files allows the Archivists to respond quickly to research requests.  This is helpful when questions are tied to media stories.

14. 100K exterior makeover begins on Dinny the Dinosaur at the Calgary Zoo

14. 100K exterior makeover begins on Dinny the Dinosaur at the Calgary Zoo – CTV News June 16 2021

News articles are now most often delivered via television or the web, allowing for more photographs or video to bring their stories alive.  This poses new challenges for the City of Calgary Archives and our efforts to preserve this information for future generations.

Conclusion


We hope that you have enjoyed this small sampling of records available at the City of Calgary Archives.  If you have more questions on this topic or would like to explore something new, the City of Calgary Archives is open to the public and an Archivist is available to assist you in locating information related to your research. 

Please email the Archives with your questions and reference an archivist will be happy to assist you.  The Archives also has several exhibits and other information available on our website:  https://www.calgary.ca/archives.

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