Resources in the Archives on Naturalists and Environmental History in New England

In Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year, famed naturalist Edwin Way Teale writes, “The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues—self-restraint…To provide protection for wildlife and wild beauty, everyone has to deny himself proportionately. Special privilege and conservation are ever at odds.” As relevant today as when his book was first published in 1953, Teale’s message of the necessity of conservation lies at the core of the study of environmental history. Defined generally, the study of environmental history examines the interaction between humans and the natural world over time. Naturalists contribute to our understanding of environmental history through their fieldwork, where they observe and comment on the behavior of species within their natural environments. As described by author John Terres, a naturalist is “a lover,” different from the scientist, who is “an investigator.”

Archives & Special Collections holds the writings of several influential New England naturalists. These include Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980), John K. Terres (1905-2006), and Margaret Waring Buck (1905-1997). Continuing in the august tradition of Henry David Thoreau, Teale and his fellow naturalists helped facilitate a discovery and interest in the natural world among a variety of audiences, including children. For example, Teale’s book The Strange Lives of Familiar Insects encourages an appreciation for the insect world by drawing attention to often overlooked and misunderstood creatures. The collections of these naturalists housed in the archive include field notes, diaries, photographs, illustrations, letters, publications, and artifacts. These materials allow for an examination into the mentality and practices of people who devoted themselves to the documentation and preservation of the natural world, which has furthered the study of environmental history.

Edwin Way Teale Papers: Born in Illinois in 1899, Teale was interested in nature from an early age. After earning degrees at Earlham College and Columbia University, Teale pursued a career writing articles for the magazine Popular Science. Teale left the magazine in 1942 in order to work full-time on his own books. In 1959, motivated by a desire for a more bucolic way of life, Teale and his wife purchased seventy-five acres in Connecticut. Teale wrote thirty-two books throughout his lifetime, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1966. Teale and his wife donated their land to the Connecticut Audubon Society. His papers at the Archives & Special Collections include field notes, drafts for his books, magazine and newspaper articles, letters, family documents, photographs, and his personal library. The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860134418 .
To find a digitized copy of Teale’s “Trail Wood Journal” from 1962-1965, go to https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860204261#page/1/mode/2up

John K. Terres Papers: Award-winning author and naturalist John Terres was born in 1905 in Pennsylvania. He attended Cornell University and New York University before becoming a field biologist for the Soil Conservation Service in 1936. He wrote and edited more than fifty books concerning natural history, and became well known for his books on North American birds. One of his best-selling books, Songbirds in Your Garden (1968), teaches readers how to attract and feed birds in their own backyards. Another acclaimed book, The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds (1980), earned Terres the Merit Award of Art Directions Club of New York and the Silver Medal and Citation from the German government. The collection includes Terres’ professional and personal correspondence, research notes, publications, photographs, and manuscripts of his work.The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860124281

Margaret Waring Buck Papers: Buck was a Connecticut-based naturalist and artist. She illustrated a variety of books on the natural world, including Where They Go in Winter, published in 1968, and Animals Through the Year, published in 1979. Buck also practiced and wrote about physiognomy, the study of face reading. Her papers contain original artwork and manuscript items for several of her books. The collection also holds her personal papers, including photographs, notebooks, and newspaper clippings. The finding aid is available at https://collections.ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/20002%3A860138800

We invite you to view these items in the reading room in Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

This post was written by Alexandra Borkowski, a UConn PhD student and student assistant in Archives & Special Collections.