Skip to main content


Identifier: CONS90

Scope and Contents

The Olaus J. Murie collection contains items from the years 1917 to 1973. Included in the collection are correspondence, articles, reports, statements, photographs and maps. The items pertain to Murie's research work on wildlife, his tenure with the Wilderness Society, conservation legislation, and general wilderness and wildlife issues. One folder of engravers' proofs of wilderness illustrations by Murie is also included in the collection.

The items that make up this collection provide insight into Murie's research on American wildlife, his work for various conservation groups, and his personal and professional relationships with others in the conservation field. The reports and articles by Murie provide a glimpse of his writing style, his extensive research in the field, and his ability to tailor his information to a variety of audiences. The general correspondence series contains many letters written to Murie from a variety of colleagues, friends and acquaintances. Also included in the correspondence are letters from many who did not know him personally, or had only read his work or heard of him. These letters provide insight into how respected, well-liked and well-known Murie was in his lifetime.


Files of correspondence, articles, reports and notes arranged by topic make up this series. Many of the files are primarily correspondence. Topics include both the names of correspondents, organizations, locations and types of animals. Ansel Adams, Hubert Humphrey, Walt Disney, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas and U.S. Senator Joseph O'Mahoney are among the correspondents. Correspondence, reports and publications from organizations such as The Izaak Walton League, The Wilderness Society and the National Wildlife Federation are also included. Some subjects include antelope, bears, elk, cougars, coyotes and caribou. Locations include Grand Teton National Park, Smoky Mountain National Park, Three Sisters Wilderness Area and Yellowstone National Park.


Olaus Murie corresponded with a great number of people throughout his life. The topics discussed were not always related to conservation issues. These letters sent to and received from Murie are filed as general correspondence. They are arranged in chronological order.


Murie wrote many articles on a variety of topics throughout his lifetime. Articles by and about Murie are included in this series. Many articles and papers not by Murie yet about conservation issues are also included. Newspaper and magazine clippings about general conservation topics make up another portion of this series.


Photographs include views of Sheldon Antelope Refuge in Nevada, canyons, mountains, plant life, springs, overgrazing, invasive plants, and erosion. Also included are images of Waldo Lake Wild Area, the Three Sisters Primitive Area, and the proposed Diamond Peak Wild Area.


  • 1917-1973

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Biographical / Historical

"Olaus Murie was born March 1, 1889, in the frontier community of Moorhead, Minnesota. The son of Norwegian immigrants, Murie's later interest in natural history can be traced to his childhood along the Red River and its surrounding unbroken prairie. Murie attended Pacific University in Oregon, where he completed studies in zoology and wildlife biology. After graduation in 1912, Murie became an Oregon State conservation officer. Between 1914 and 1917, Murie participated in scientific explorations of Hudson Bay and Labrador, financed by the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh. The Hudson Bay expeditions prepared Murie for his job as a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey. Between 1920 and 1926, Murie conducted an exhaustive study of Alaskan caribou, mapping migratory routes and estimating numbers. During this period, Murie met and married Margaret (Mardy) Thomas, who would later become a prominent spokesperson for the parks and wilderness."

"In 1927 the Survey assigned Murie to comprehensively investigate the Jackson Hole elk herd resulting in the classic publication The Elk of North America. In 1937 Murie accepted a council seat on the recently created Wilderness Society. Combining the logic of a scientist with the passion of an artist, Murie proved persuasive in helping to enlarge existing national park boundaries and to create additional new units. Murie's testimony on the unnatural boundaries of Olympic National Monument helped to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to add the great rain forests of the Bogachiel and Hoh River Valleys. Murie's vocal concern for a more ecological or natural boundary for the elk of the Grand Teton area helped to create Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943 and to achieve National Park status a few years later."

"In 1945 Murie resigned his position with the Biological Survey and became director of The Wilderness Society. With the appointment, Murie became an important advocate of the National Park Service. An effective speaker and skilled author, Murie lobbied successfully against the construction of large federal dams within Glacier National Park and Dinosaur National Monument. With the Echo Park victory behind him, Murie spearheaded the crusade to establish an unprecedented 9 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The idea of preserving an entire ecological system became the intellectual and scientific foundation for the creation of a new generation of large natural parks, especially those established by the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act. By the time of his death on October 21, 1963, Olaus Murie had earned a prominent position in the ranks of American preservationists."

Biographical sketch from National Park Service: The First 75 Years. William Sontag, editor.


5 boxes (5 linear feet)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Mrs. Olaus J. Murie, 1966 and 1968.


Robert Russell

May 2002


Claudia Jensen

October 2004

Updated November 2008


Ellen Zazzarino

Revised 2004
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States