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UW Expands Access to Papers of Conservation Movement Leaders the Murie Family

April 10, 2014
Two men backpacking
Olaus Murie, left, and his brother, Adolph, in Grand Teton National Park during October 1961. (American Heritage Center)

As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the University of Wyoming has expanded accessibility to the legacy of the Murie family’s 80 years of commitment to protect wildlife and wilderness.

The UW American Heritage Center (AHC) has digitized the Murie Family papers that consist predominantly of the professional papers of three famous conservationists -- Olaus Murie, Margaret Murie and Adolph Murie. The collection contains reports, correspondence, memoranda, field notes and journals, publications and an extensive collection of films. The materials relate to public land management wildlife conservation in Alaska, western Wyoming and the desert Southwest.

Links to digitized items and additional information about the Murie Family papers can be found in the online finding aid at:

“Without the Muries’ conservation efforts, the history of wilderness protection in our country would probably have not been as robust or as successful,” says Kate Gersh, associate director of the Murie Center ( located in Moose. She describes the Murie Family papers as a rich resource that everyone should have access to for finding “the human spirit in nature.”

Olaus Murie worked for such prestigious institutions as the Carnegie Institution and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He was president of the Wilderness Society from 1950-57 and was active in a variety of conservation societies and biologists’ professional organizations. He received numerous awards for his environmental efforts and wrote several books, including “The Elk of North America” and “A Field Guide to Animal Tracks.”

Margaret E. “Mardy” Thomas met Olaus in Alaska while he was working on a study of caribou. She married Olaus in 1924, and became an outspoken advocate for the environment in her own right. Soon after their marriage, the two moved to Moose, where they spent the rest of their lives. She helped found the Teton Science School in Jackson, and was instrumental in the designation and protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

She and her husband also participated in the designation of Grand Teton National Park in 1929. Along with Olaus, Margaret was credited with preparing the way for the passage of the Wilderness Act, and she frequently was called to give testimony on environmental issues before Congress. She was referred to by many as the “mother of the modern conservation movement.” In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her contributions to wilderness conservation.

Adolph Murie, the brother of Olaus, was an award-winning author. He wrote “The Wolves of Mount McKinley” and the “Ecology of the Coyote in Yellowstone.” He was a National Park Service employee for most of his adult life, which enabled him to study wildlife in a variety of pristine settings. The U.S. Department of Interior recognized him with its Distinguished Service Award. Adolph married Margaret’s sister, Louise, and the two subsequently moved to Moose as well.

“Our organization’s own goal is to work toward digitalizing our collection housed on the historic Murie Ranch so its myriad of photos, films, book collection, artwork and various scientific and personal documents can be utilized by many,” Gersh says. “The ultimate goal is to have all Murie archival collections across the country digitized, available online, and linked by finding aids so that one repository is not existing in complete isolation of the other. The University of Wyoming has paved this way.”

The AHC is UW’s manuscripts repository, university archives and rare books library. It is one of the largest and most actively used non-governmental primary source repositories in the United States. In addition to outstanding collections that document the history of most aspects of the Rocky Mountain West, the AHC has internationally acclaimed holdings in popular entertainment (TV, radio and film), aviation and aerospace, railroads, journalism, conservation, aspects of U.S. military history, economic geology and ranching. Its award-winning website is at

For more information, contact the AHC Digital Programs Department, email or call (307) 766-3704.

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