Aldo Leopold: Life, Land, Legacy

A Sand County Almanac (in dustjacket)

January 22 – May 24, 2019

Our lumber pile, recruited entirely from the river, is thus not only a collection of personalities, but an anthology of human strivings in upriver farms and forests. The autobiography of an old board is a kind of literature not yet taught on campuses, but any riverbank farm is a library where he who hammers or saws may read at will. Come high water, there is always an accession of new books. – Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

Writers have often compared libraries and archives to wildernesses. But for Aldo Leopold, the metaphor was reversed. To him, a woodpile was as rich in meaning as a library of good books.

From University Archives. Series 3/1, Box 84, Folder 2 (1936-1937).

Aldo Leopold (January 11, 1887 – April 21, 1948) was a conservationist, author, professor, and public intellectual. He joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1933 where he taught courses such as “Wildlife Techniques” and “Game Management.” He is best known as the author of the posthumously published A Sand County Almanac (1949).

Leopold’s papers came to the UW-Madison Archives in several installments beginning in the early 1960s. The majority of Leopold’s surviving manuscripts are found in the Aldo Leopold Papers, a collection held by University Archives in Steenbock Library.

Another major collection – the R.A. McCabe Collection of the Writings of Aldo Leopold – has a home here in the Department of Special Collections.

Title of Leopold's WHA talk, "Feeding winter birds on the farm"
Title of one of Leopold’s talks on radio station WHA. From the McCabe Collection of the Writings of Aldo Leopold, Department of Special Collections.

Most of Leopold’s papers were digitized by the library between 2007 and 2009 through an NHPRC grant to University Archives and the Aldo Leopold Foundation and are freely available online through UW Digital Collections.

This, the first-ever large scale exhibit of Aldo Leopold manuscripts. explored Leopold’s life and work. It also includes items generously lent by the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Topics of the exhibit included

  • Leopold’s Predecessors
  • Leopold as a Student (curated by Gil Taylor, iSchool Student, UW-Madison)
  • The Pine Cone and “Varmints”
  • The Shack
  • Leopold the Hunter
  • The Leopolds and Archery (curated by Prof. emeritus Stan Temple)
  • Leopold the Educator
  • Leopold in Academia
  • Leopold and the Department of Wildlife Management
  • Leopold and the Arboretum
  • Leopold’s Specimens (curated by Prof. emeritus Stan Temple)
  • Harvesting Data
  • On the Radio
  • Evolution of an Essay
  • Publishing A Sand County Almanac 
  • A Portrait of Aldo Leopold
  • Towards Leopold’s Legacy

The exhibit was collaboratively curated by Katie Nash, Robin Rider, and David Pavelich. Many thanks to friends and colleagues who helped along the way: among them, Stan Temple, Curt Meine, Buddy Huffaker, Natasha Veeser, Dan Joe, Carly Sentieri, and Gil Taylor.