Leopold Foundation, UW-Madison to digitize Aldo Leopold archives

Feb. 27, 2007

by Donald Johnson

The entire Aldo Leopold Collection held by the University Archives of the University of Wisconsin-Madison will be digitized in a partnership project with the Aldo Leopold Foundation. More than $100,000 has been awarded to the Foundation, in Baraboo, Wis., to support the project.

Photo of bikes and shadows

Aldo Leopold walking outside his shack near Baraboo, Wis.

Photo: courtesy University Archives

Aldo Leopold, an influential 20th century conservationist and thinker, is most widely known as the author of "A Sand County Almanac," one of the most respected books about the environment. Leopold was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1933 until his death in 1948.

The grant is one of three given by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, affiliated with the National Archives, in a new program devoted to digitizing historical records. The initiative targets testing and implementing cost-effective methods to scan historical record collections and make digital versions freely available on the Internet.

The two-year, matching grant for $110,530 will support a project that exemplifies the Wisconsin Idea. Collaborative work will cut across the private Aldo Leopold Foundation, the recognized copyright holder of Leopold materials; the UW-Madison Archives, the physical home of the materials; and the UW Digital Collections Center, funded by the UW System and the UW-Madison, which will conduct the digitization.

The Leopold Collection in the UW-Madison Archives consists of 27.6 cubic feet (83 archive boxes), seven diaries, 12 journals, many images and other materials. It houses the raw materials that document not only Leopold's rise to prominence, but the emergence of the field of ecology from the early 1900s until his death in 1948.

The collection has national significance because Leopold's legacy spans the disciplines of forestry, wildlife management, conservation biology, sustainable agriculture, restoration ecology, private land management, environmental history, literature, education, esthetics and ethics.

At the conclusion of this project, university librarians will undertake a similar digitization project on a complementary collection donated by Marie McCabe, the widow of Leopold's student and colleague, Robert McCabe.