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Leopold Archives

Physically housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where Leopold was a professor, the Aldo Leopold Archives represent a wealth of information about the evolution of Leopold’s thinking. They provide a detailed look at the growth of the conservation movement from the early 1900s through Aldo's death in 1948 and beyond.

Most Popular Images

Iconic Photographs

The following photos represent the most-requested images from the Leopold Archives. These images are sought after not only for their historical significance but also for their ability to capture Leopold's life, work, and the landscapes he cherished. From poignant moments in Leopold's life to the breathtaking scenes of the wilderness he advocated to protect, these photographs offer a unique, visual insight into the legacy of a conservation pioneer.

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Preserving History

Explore Aldo's Legacy

In 2007, the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives received a grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to digitize Leopold’s collected papers and photographs. Today, both the in-person and digital versions of the collection are available by request to conservation enthusiasts and casual learners alike.

"We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in."

- Aldo Leopold
Historical Treasures

The Collections

The wealth of knowledge that is the Aldo Leopold Archives is thoughtfully divided into two distinct collections: photographs and papers. The photograph collection was captured by Aldo’s son Carl, providing a visual journey through history. Meanwhile, the papers collection comprises a vast array of Leopold's writings, notes, and correspondence. These papers reflect the most advanced thinking and innovative practices across the spectrum of natural resource conservation, policy, and management during the first half of the 20th century. Together, these collections provide a comprehensive picture of the enduring impact Aldo and his family have had on conservation.

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photographic collection

After a trip to Germany in 1935 to study European forestry methods, Leopold returned home with a Zeiss camera, which he gave to his son Carl. Acting as the family photographer, Carl quickly began documenting much of the family’s activity at the Shack in the 1930s and 1940s. The Leopold Foundation maintains Carl’s photographs in an archive that includes more than 1000 images.

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leopold papers

Aldo was a meticulous and disciplined writer who kept extensive files of important correspondence, memoranda, reports, and related materials – all while publishing more than 500 articles, essays, and reports. This invaluable archive also contains over 500 more unpublished essays, reports, and other writings.

The collection includes Aldo's detailed journals of his Forest Service activity, travels, and hunting and field experiences, as well as observations and activities at his Sand County farm. His correspondence with his many graduate students and hundreds of leaders across a range of scholarly disciplines, professional fields, government agencies, and conservation organizations is also preserved.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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What kinds of materials are found in the Leopold Archives?

The Aldo Leopold Archives, physically housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where Leopold was a professor, include Leopold’s unpublished writings, correspondence, sketches, photographs, class materials, and the implements he used on the land.

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How do I acquire permission to reproduce material from the Leopold Archives?

The Aldo Leopold Foundation holds the rights to all materials in the archives. To use, publish, or reprint any of these materials (e.g., photographs, journals, correspondence), you must seek permission from us by filling out our permissions request form.

Please note that we are able to grant permission to publish archival material only, not to reprint excerpts from certain published works (see below).

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How do I get permission to reprint a passage from A Sand County Almanac?

Permissions requests related to A Sand County Almanac are handled by its publisher, Oxford University Press.

You can submit a permissions request via their website.

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I’m interested in a specific photograph from the photo archives. How do I find it?

First, browse our sample photo collection, which contains the most frequently requested photos from the archives.If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, visit the online Aldo Leopold Archives on the UW-Madison website, and click “Search the Collection.” There, you can search the entire collection by keyword, such as “Albuquerque” or “canoe.”

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How do I obtain permission to use a photograph?

When you find the photo you’re looking for, either in our sample collection or the full archives, make note of the four-digit image number (e.g., 0193) in the caption information. On the UW-Madison site, please note the “local identifier” number.

This number should be entered into our permissions request form when you submit your request to use the photo.

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How do I find a specific piece of writing in the Leopold Archives?

To search the Leopold Papers, visit the online Aldo Leopold Archives, click “Search the Full Text,” and enter your search terms into the box provided. You may also click “Browse” at the top of the page to explore the written works more generally.

Once you’ve identified the document you would like to use, please fill out our permissions request form.

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Do you charge a fee for use of archival images?

Yes, to recoup some of our investment in digitizing the Leopold materials and cover our staff time in processing these requests, we do typically charge for the use of archival images. Standard rates are $25 per image for non-profit use and $50 per image for commercial use.

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Who can I contact for help?

Don’t see the answer to your question here? Please contact Steve Swenson at or 608-355-0279, ext. 29.


Leopold Archives Transcription Project

Make an impact on conservation history by being among the first to transcribe the penciled writings that inspired A Sand County Almanac. As a volunteer transcriber with the Aldo Leopold Foundation, you’ll ensure that current and future students, scholars, writers, educators, enthusiasts, and more can engage with Aldo’s work. No transcription experience is necessary to volunteer.

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