The Sowell Collection Conference – 2017

cadillac desert front

Thursday April 20th through Saturday the 22nd, the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library will host the Sowell Collection Conference. Created through the generous support of former Texas Tech University Regent James Sowell, the Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World contains the personal papers of some of the most prominent writers on the natural world. The Conference will include scholarly papers and panels on many of the Sowell writers, a handful of which are featured below. The Conference is free, and open to the public.

Marc Reisner was an environmental writer and advocate. He is best known for Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water (1986), a National Book Critic’s Circle Award finalist. It describes the role of water rights and water use in the history and development of the Western United States. Reisner has partnered with The Nature Conservancy and served as a staff writer and communications director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He continued his activism and writing until his death in California in July 2000. His final book, A Dangerous Place (2004), was published posthumously.

lisa couterier front

Lisa Couturier is an essayist, poet, and animal advocate. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Journalism and a certificate in Women’s Studies, then earned a Master’s degree from the Gallatin School at New York University. Her book The Hopes of Snakes explores the wild in urban spaces and the connections between the human and the nonhuman. Couturier’s work has appeared in Orion, Isotope, the American Nature Writing series, and National Geographic’s Heart of a Nation, among other publications. Her essay “Dark Horse” won the 2012 Pushcart Prize, and was nominated for the Grantham Prize for Environmental Writing. Her collection of poems, Animals/Bodies, won the 2015 Chapbook Award from the New England Poetry Club.

a.peacock front

Andrea Peacock is a Montana journalist covering Western politics and environmental news, and is the former editor of the Missoula Independent. She wrote Libby, Montana: Asbestos and the Deadly Silence of an American Corporation, and co-authored The Essential Grizzly with her husband Doug Peacock, another Sowell author. Her work has appeared in Mother Jones, High Country News, Denver Westword, Austin Chronicle, and Counterpunch.org. In 2010 she received a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation for her work on oil and gas development in communities of the Rocky Mountain West.

p.gruchow book

Paul Gruchow was raised on a small, subsistence farm near Montevideo, Minnesota. He is the author of six published books on subjects ranging from the culture of the tall grass prairie, to what we teach (and fail to teach) rural children–work widely acclaimed for its lyrical prose and eloquence. A respected and inspiring educator, Paul’s writer-in-residence involvements included numerous institutions, among them the University of Minnesota and the Lake Superior Studies Program. He won the Minnesota Book Award for three books, including Boundary Water: The Grace of the Wild and Grass Roots: The Universe of Home. He also edited The Worthington Globe–an award winning newspaper.

p.hawken book

Starting at age 20, Paul Hawken dedicated his life to sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment. His practice has included starting and running ecological businesses, writing and teaching about the impact of commerce on living systems, and consulting with governments and corporations on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy. His books include: Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World,  Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (co-authored with Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins), The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, Growing a Business, and The Next Economy.

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Sowell Conference 2016 – and the Orion Society Collection!

fox

As we do every year around this time, the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library will host the Sowell Collection Conference, which will take place this year from Thursday, April 21st to Saturday the 23rd. Created through the generous support of James Sowell, the Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World contains the personal papers of some of the country’s most prominent writers who are dedicated to documenting the ways in which we interact with our world, and creating new ways of examining our world and our place within it. The list of authors whose papers we preserve is far too long to list here in its entirety, but some of the most prominent include Rick Bass, William Kittredge, Barry Lopez, Doug Peacock, Pattiann Rogers, and Annick Smith. These authors have provided published books, correspondence, research notebooks, diaries, calendars, photographs, computer files, film, and a host of other materials for our researchers to use. This year, the Collection was also fortunate to receive the records of the Orion Society!

winter field w distant trees

A group of writers, environmentalists, and activists, the Orion Society believes that “humans are morally responsible for the world in which we live, and that the individual comes to sense this responsibility as he or she develops a personal bond with nature.”  The Orion Society focuses on teaching how nature and communities might be healed.  Their publication, Orion, is a respected journal which highlights global efforts to achieve sustainable communities. And it has incredible cover photos, as you can see throughout this blog.

water reed device

The Myrin Institute began publishing Orion Nature Quarterly (now simply Orion) in 1982. Ten years later, Myrin established the Orion Society to conduct writing workshops, secondary education initiatives, and grassroots networking. But at its core, the Society focuses on teaching how nature and communities might be healed. Many writers whose papers are housed in the Sowell Collection have been regular contributors to the journal–including Barry Lopez, Priscilla Ybarra, Lisa Couturier, and Robert Michael Pyle who will be hosting an Orion panel at this year’s Sowell Conference.

artsy cover

An important event in the Society’s history, which our Orion Society Collection thoroughly documents, is the Forgotten Language Tours. Held from 1992-2003, they facilitated events in communities across the U.S. in which writers and poets offered readings, workshops, and discussions that attempted to strengthen the local community’s understanding of the natural world and human community as well as to promote nature literacy.

fish flock

The Fire & Grit and Watershed conferences were similarly prominent events. The former was held in 1999 at the National Conservation Training Center, the largest gathering ever to take place there. The Watershed: Writers, Nature and Community conference, cosponsored by the Library of Congress, took place in Washington, D.C., April 15-20, 1996, with over three thousand people in attendance.

buffalo snow

Finally, the society presents The John Hay Award for Nature Writing annually to writers whose work is vital in reconnecting people to the natural world. Award winners include John Hay, Ann Zwinger, Wendell Berry, Homero Aridjis, Peter Matthiessen and Jane Goodall. In 2004 and 2010 Orion won the Utne Independent Press Award for General Excellence. The magazine was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in the Essay category.

indian face

The Orion Society published two anthologies of writing from Orion: Finding Home (1992) and The Future of Nature (2007); and two educational series: The Nature Literacy Series and the New Patriotism Series. But the collection holds more than just issues of Orion and these other publications. Correspondence and manuscripts are present, as are audio/visual materials and photographs. The Orion Society Notebook published from 1995 through 1997 (sometimes under other titles) is also available for your reading pleasure.

rock pile

So make plans to attend 2016’s Sowell Conference if you can. But if you can’t, don’t hesitate to view the Orion Society’s records in our Holden Reading Room, where our ever-attentive Reference staff would be happy to get them into your hands.

“Celebrating the National Parks: The Photography by Ro Wauer” – An Exhibit at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library

Alaska Katmai-18x14Katmai National Park, Alaska

“The national parks of the United States possess the best examples of the continent’s natural heritage, complete with the grandest scenery and most stable plant and animal communities still in existence. North America’s national parks represent a microcosm of our last remaining wildlands.” – Roland Wauer

In 2016 the National Park Service (NPS) will be celebrating 100 years of preserving the wild places of the United States. To commemorate that at the Southwest Collection, we are installing an exhibit entitled “Celebrating the National Parks: The Photography of Ro Wauer.” It consists primarily of photographs taken by Roland “Ro” Wauer, a thirty-two year veteran of the NPS. The exhibit runs from mid-January until mid-summer, and if you’re of a mind to do so, also take a look at his extensive library, manuscript collection, and photographs reside at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library.

My Wild Life

Wauer had a varied career. He began his NPS stint as a seasonal ranger, ultimately leading him to serve at eight national parks, the NPS regional office in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and finally as Chief of the Division of Natural Resources in Washington, D.C. Until his retirement in 1989 (and, of course, for years afterward) he saw a little bit of everything that nature had to offer. He visited California and Alaska, traveled south into Mexico, and even journeyed to farther locations such as the Virgin Islands and other U.S. affiliates. One of his passions was the study of birds and butterflies, leading to a large portion of his twenty-five books and 200 articles on those subjects (and several others.) His autobiography, “My Wild Life,” formed the core of the content in this exhibit.

Big Bend Bear-14x18Black bear at Sam Nail Ranch, Big Bend National Park, Texas

“My Wild Life” is an interesting read; a trek through many of the parks in which he worked, and the extensive time he spent observing and interacting with the birds and animals therein. Although he is more modest about his accomplishments, there is no question that his study of bird populations and their habitats was significant and widely recognized. Similar acclaim could be accorded to his studies, often through large research projects, of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and a host of other species. Seriously, he details encounters with bighorn sheep and large falcons; poisonous snakes and mountain lions; and of course, owls, swallows, and, honestly, an Audobon guide’s worth of birds.

Badlands-18x14Badlands National Park, South Dakota

So if you want to see some more of these excellent photos of the flora, fauna, and grandeur of the United States’ national parks, stop on by this spring or summer and take a look at our exhibit. And of course, if you’d like to peruse the papers of Ro Wauer, our Reference Staff is always happy to arrange that for you.

The Sowell Natural History Conference at the Southwest Collection – 2015

1a.B.Lopez-Arctic DreamsThis April 16th through 18th, the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library will host the Sowell Collection Conference. Created through the generous support of James Sowell, the Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World contains the personal papers of some of the country’s most prominent writers who are dedicated to documenting the ways in which we interact with our world and creating new ways of examining our world and our place within it. In 2001, the work of Rick Bass, William Kittredge, Barry Lopez, Bill McKibben, Doug Peacock, David Quammen, Pattiann Rogers, and Annick Smith comprised the core of this collection. Writers recently added include Susan Brind Morrow, John Lane, and Sandra Scofield. In addition to published books, materials available for research purposes include correspondence; drafts of manuscripts; research notebooks; diaries and calendars; and photographs, computer files, and film.

Barry Lopez, for example, is an essayist, author, and short story writer. The relationship between physical landscape and human culture lies at the core of his nonfiction work, while his fiction frequently addresses issues of intimacy, ethics, and identity. His books include Arctic Dreams, the cover of which can be seen above. It received the National Book Award, and another of Lopez’ works, Of Wolves and Men, was a National Book Award finalist. Lopez has received fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the John Burroughs Society, the Orion Society, and other institutions. For All Seasons

Roland “Ro” Wauer is another prominent author well-documented in the Sowell Collection. An internationally acclaimed expert on the birds and butterflies of North America, Wauer is also a thirty-two year veteran of the National Park Service. As chief park naturalist for Big Bend National Park and chief of the Division of Natural Resources, National Park Service, he is the author of some two dozen books and two hundred articles. Ro writes on topics that reflect his distinguished career, with titles that include Birder’s Mexico, Butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and Naturalist’s Big Bend. For All Seasons, seen above, chronicles a year of his life in Big Bend in an effort to share both the beauty of and his passion for that park.QuammenBook Cover-Kiwi EggDavid Quammen is known for writing concise and highly accessible articles on scientific topics. His book, The Song of the Dodo (Scribner, 1996), in which he investigates the rate of species extinction in island ecosystems, won the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing and several other awards. Quammen is a frequent contributor to Outside magazine and his work has also appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, and Rolling Stone. He has received a Lannan Foundation Fellowship as well as the National Magazine Award and the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. The human drama and scientific basis of Darwin’s twenty-one-year delay constitute a fascinating, tangled tale that elucidates the character of a cautious naturalist who initiated an intellectual revolution. In The Kiwi’s Egg (above) Quammen uses the personal letters and notebooks of Charles Darwin to explore the biography of Darwin with a focus on the history of the scientist’s most famous theory.Rick Bass BroadsideRick Bass is a writer and environmental activist. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1958, but spent much of his youth in Houston. He graduated from Utah State with a degree in geology and then worked as a petroleum geologist in Mississippi. In 1987 Bass moved to Montana and began writing full-time. He is the author of numerous short stories, novels, memoirs and essays. Much of his work focuses on the reasoned benefits of preserving wilderness areas, such as the Roadless Yaak Valley of Montana. Our Rick Bass papers include almost all of his early work, as well as drafts of short stories and essays, correspondence and Yaak Valley Forest Council material, and over 100 letters from Rick Bass to James Linville, editor of the Paris Review.

–    Diane Warner, Librarian for the Sowell Collection

The Sowell Natural History Conference at the Southwest Collection

1a.B.Lopez-Arctic DreamsThis April 10th through 12th, the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library will host the Sowell Collection Conference. Created through the generous support of James Sowell, the Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World contains the personal papers of some of the country’s most prominent writers who are dedicated to documenting the ways in which we interact with our world and creating new ways of examining our world and our place within it. In 2001, the work of Rick Bass, William Kittredge, Barry Lopez, Bill McKibben, Doug Peacock, David Quammen, Pattiann Rogers, and Annick Smith comprised the core of this collection. Writers recently added include Susan Brind Morrow, John Lane, and Sandra Scofield. In addition to published books, materials available for research purposes include correspondence; drafts of manuscripts; research notebooks; diaries and calendars; and photographs, computer files, and film.

Barry Lopez, for example, is an essayist, author, and short story writer. The relationship between physical landscape and human culture lies at the core of his nonfiction work, while his fiction frequently addresses issues of intimacy, ethics, and identity. His books include Arctic Dreams, the cover of which can be seen above. It received the National Book Award, and another of Lopez’ works, Of Wolves and Men, was a National Book Award finalist. Lopez has received fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the John Burroughs Society, the Orion Society, and other institutions. For All Seasons

Roland “Ro” Wauer is another prominent author well-documented in the Sowell Collection. An internationally acclaimed expert on the birds and butterflies of North America, Wauer is also a thirty-two year veteran of the National Park Service. As chief park naturalist for Big Bend National Park and chief of the Division of Natural Resources, National Park Service, he is the author of some two dozen books and two hundred articles. Ro writes on topics that reflect his distinguished career, with titles that include Birder’s Mexico, Butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and Naturalist’s Big Bend. For All Seasons, seen above, chronicles a year of his life in Big Bend in an effort to share both the beauty of and his passion for that park.QuammenBook Cover-Kiwi Egg
David Quammen is known for writing concise and highly accessible articles on scientific topics. His book, The Song of the Dodo, in which he investigates the rate of species extinction in island ecosystems, won the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing and several other awards. Quammen is a frequent contributor to Outside magazine and his work has also appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, and Rolling Stone. He has received a Lannan Foundation Fellowship as well as the National Magazine Award and the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. The human drama and scientific basis of Darwin’s twenty-one-year delay constitute a fascinating, tangled tale that elucidates the character of a cautious naturalist who initiated an intellectual revolution. In The Kiwi’s Egg (above) Quammen uses the personal letters and notebooks of Charles Darwin to explore the biography of Darwin with a focus on the history of the scientist’s most famous theory.
Rick Bass Broadside
Rick Bass is a writer and environmental activist. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1958, but spent much of his youth in Houston. He graduated from Utah State with a degree in geology and then worked as a petroleum geologist in Mississippi. In 1987 Bass moved to Montana and began writing full-time. He is the author of numerous short stories, novels, memoirs and essays. Much of his work focuses on the reasoned benefits of preserving wilderness areas, such as the Roadless Yaak Valley of Montana. Our Rick Bass papers include almost all of his early work, as well as drafts of short stories and essays, correspondence and Yaak Valley Forest Council material, and over 100 letters from Rick Bass to James Linville, editor of the Paris Review.

As always, those interested in seeing these collections, or any of our other holdings, are always welcome to contact our Reference Staff, who would be happy to arrange a visit.

– Diane Warner and Robert Weaver