They Mixed Science, Art and Costume Parties to Reveal Mysteries of the Sea

They were also open, collaborative and excited about understanding evolutionary ecology by documenting animals in their natural environment.

But their legacy was complicated. Although they helped lay foundations for modern conservation, field biology and animal behavior studies, they were riding the coattails of colonialism and industrialism, often funded by America’s economic elite as it sought to control natural resources in the Caribbean and South America. Indentured workers from India, descendants of slaves from Africa, and Native American groups were critical to the D.T.R.’s work, but merely mentioned in some texts.

Nonetheless, they produced an enormous volume of popular books, magazine articles, paintings, videos and photographs that engaged public curiosity. For decades they collected dust in the W.C.S. archives, until two fans of Beebe stumbled upon them. Mark Dion, an artist, and Katherine McLeod, an environmental historian and anthropologist, together with Madeleine Thompson, the archive director, are curating a show, which will be held at The Drawing Center in New York City between April 14 and July 16. It will feature Mr. Dion’s recreations of the D.T.R.’s two field stations, along with archival photos and paintings. Here’s a preview.

Diving into the unknown

Photo

An illustration of the bathysphere, a steel sphere used to take Mr. Beebe thousands of feet under the sea.

Credit
Wildlife Conservation Society Archives

On Aug. 15, 1934, off the coast of Bermuda, Beebe climbed into a big steel ball called a bathysphere. Connected to their ship, Gladisfen, by a cable, he and the pod’s designer, Otis Barton, set the world record at the time for the deepest dive, at 3,028 feet.

But Beebe was more interested in conveying the mysterious, glowing, alien life…

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