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Special Collections & Archives - Wilderness Archive


Nature and Purpose

The Wilderness Archive at the University of Idaho is a collection of primary source materials documenting the utilization and conservation of our water, forest, mineral, land, and wildlife resources in the Pacific Northwest. The archive includes primary sources such as books, periodicals, maps, brochures, leaflets, and unpublished letters, diaries, photographs and other documents. These sources provide the basis for any understanding of the way questions of wilderness and economic development have become passionate issues in the Pacific Northwest.

The Wilderness Issue

The term "wilderness" is both evocative and provocative. For some it conjures visions of an inviolate last sanctuary for those with a pioneer spirit; others view natural resources as suitable only for development and exploitation and see "wilderness" as only wasteland. Perhaps the majority seek some balance between preservation of enough wilderness to provide for aesthetic, emotional, and scientific needs and sufficient development to maintain economic growth. But there has been no consensus on where the balancing point should be. Hence, as a public policy issue, wilderness has dominated political life in the Pacific Northwest for many decades. Much of the discussion has regrettably been based on anecdotal claims and ahistorical analyses. The Wilderness Archive at the University of Idaho has been designed in part to raise the quality of the debate by assembling substantive collections of research materials. Collections now available include papers and records of influential individuals such as award winning conservationist author Michael Frome and Idaho Senator James A. McClure, former chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee; of industrial concerns such as Potlatch Lumber Company and Day Mines, Inc.; and of conservation organizations such as the Idaho Conservation League and the Idaho Chapter of the Wilderness Society; as well as other materials such as the papers of "Cougar Dave" Lewis of the world famous Taylor Ranch, now a University of Idaho research facility in the heart of the central Idaho wilderness.

Complementary Collections

The Wilderness Archive at the University of Idaho Library is supplemented by the 16,000 volumes of Idaho and Pacific Northwest history in the Day-Northwest Collection; the Idaho state documents collection of over 10,000 items; over 100,000 images in the Historical Photograph Collection; other records of mining, lumbering and insurance companies, banks, hospitals, orphanages; personal papers of governors, state representatives and senators, judges, doctors, lawyers, and journalists; as well as the University Archives, which includes the correspondence of the University Presidents.

How You Can Help

Collections of primary sources on topics of current interest can only be developed through the active participation of those involved. Realizing that important aspects of our region's history would vanish in the same way as much of the nation's wilderness, Senator James McClure, Michael Frome, Ralph Maughan, Jerry Jayne, and Richard Smith have donated important materials to the Wilderness Archive. They urge others active in land use issues to donate their papers as well. For more information, write Wilderness Archive, Special Collections, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, ID 83843-4198 or call 208-885-7951.


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