The records of the National Zoological Park, Office of Public Affairs were for the most part created and maintained by Sybil E. Hamlet, Public Information Officer at
NZP for over twenty years. Also included are some general correspondence and memoranda created by Hamlet's predecessor, Marion McCrane.
As Public Information Officer, Hamlet was responsible for gathering and disseminating information about NZP's events, collections, and programs to the media and the general
public. She garnered a great deal of information about animal births, deaths, breeding, and acquisitions from the daily and weekly animal reports written by the keepers, which
are included in these records as series 1. Other data that Hamlet collected about animals at NZP and other zoos, including clippings, photographs, and manuscripts, can be
found in the animal information files. This series (4) is an especially rich source of information on the arrival of and the public reaction to the two giant pandas, "Ling-Ling"
and "Hsing Hsing."
A large portion of Hamlet's job was answering requests for information about animals and zoos from both the public at large and from other members of the zoo profession.
Samples of incoming correspondence and the replies of Hamlet, her predecessor Marion McCrane, and other staff in the Public Affairs Office, can be found in series 5 and 6.
Series 5 contains requests for information solely about animals, while series 6 is concerned with requests for photographs, guidebooks, maps, and more general information
about NZP and zoo careers.
The general subject files (series 3) document the research and activities of the Office of Public Affairs not directly related to the animal collections at NZP. Other aspects
of Hamlet's work as Public Information Officer can be seen in the memoranda and correspondence in this series concerning the planning and execution of special events at the
zoo. Writing signs and labels for the zoo was another duty of the Office of Public Affairs until the Office of Graphics and Exhibits was created in 1974; series 2 contains
drafts of text for those signs, including maps showing the geographic range of the animals described.
The more administrative side of the Office of Public Affairs is documented in series 7, which contains internal memoranda concerning such things as chain of command during
leaves of absence, personnel issues, and commendations for exceptional performance by Public Affairs staff and other NZP staff assisting with Public Affairs activities.
In 1978, Sybil Hamlet was delegated a two-year assignment of researching and writing the history of the National Zoological Park. Series 8 contains all the notes, articles,
correspondence, manuscripts, and clippings she used in order to create her manuscript, "The National Zoological Park from Its Beginnings to 1973." Three drafts of the manuscript
are included, along with an index to one of the drafts. The manuscript was never published.
Another fine source for information about past events and animals at NZP is the large number of scrapbooks that make up series 12. Clippings about NZP people, animals,
collection expeditions, and events were saved from 1924 to 1978, along with original photographs (black and white and color) in some albums. Twelve of these scrapbooks are
devoted to the giant pandas, and four solely to obituaries for "Smokey Bear." A small collection of glass lantern slides and photographs can be found in series 9. The lantern
slides were probably taken in the London Zoological Gardens at the turn of the century, and the photographs (both black and white and color) are images of NZP and its animals.
Original artwork, primarily of "Smokey Bear" and of the giant pandas, make up series 10; series 11 contains architectural drawings and maps of NZP grounds and buildings.
The Office of Public Affairs did not exist as an administrative entity at the National Zoological Park (NZP) until 1978. Prior to the early 1960s, dissemination of
information about NZP programs, activities, and animals to the public and the media was carried out by the staff of the Office of the Director. In 1962, zoologist Marion McCrane
was hired to head the Information and Education Division at NZP. In addition to handling public affairs, the division also created signs and labels for NZP exhibits. When
McCrane resigned in December 1968, Sybil E. Hamlet was named acting head and later head of the office.
In 1972, Information and Education was reorganized and became the Division of Interpretation, with Saul W. Schiffman as chief of the division. The new division's duties
were expanded to include exhibit production. In 1974, information and education work was again separated from exhibits production by the creation of the Office of Education
and Information and the Office of Graphics and Exhibits. Judith White was named chief of the Office of Education and Information in 1975. This office was renamed the Office
of Education in 1978, when information duties were transferred to the newly established Office of Public Affairs.
The Office of Public Affairs was headed by Patricia Hurley in 1978, and Robert J. Hoage became chief of the office in 1979. With the assistance of Sybil Hamlet and Michael
Morgan, the Office of Public Affairs continued to provide general information about NZP programs and activities to the public and the media, as well as organizing and coordinating
special events at NZP.