OPS 1-3 - Ecology in the archives: Documenting ESA's history at the University of Georgia Libraries

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
ESA Exhibit Hall, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Steven G. Armour, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, GA

The poster will provide an overview of the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) historical records archived at the University of Georgia’s Special Collections Libraries. ESA’s records have been held at the University of Georgia since 1977, but they are becoming increasingly searchable to the public through a web-based finding aid. The poster will highlight key records of interest, such as founding documents, correspondence, and subject files that document the history of ESA, and describe how the collection communicates overarching trends in the discipline. Apart from describing the records’ content, the poster also seeks to inform researchers on how these records are mediated and accessed.


The ESA records document the society’s history going back to the first annual meeting in 1915. The records of 43 distinguished ESA members form the collection, and include correspondence and subject files. Correspondence forms the bulk of the collection, which provides a record of the routine communications of the scientists with the officers of the ESA, with governmental agencies, and with colleagues or students. A significant portion of correspondence demonstrates ESA’s relationship with other scientific organizations, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. The collection also contains subject files, including the ESA charter, reports, financial documents, and records concerning the professional status of ecologists within the context of certification guidelines proposed by ESA. These subject files are significant in that they provide documentation for administrative decisions taken by ESA officers and mentioned in correspondences.

The records are searchable through a web-based finding aid with an embedded box request mechanism to facilitate use of the records at the University of Georgia’s Special Collections Libraries. The records act as major resource for ESA members and officers exploring the organization’s history, as well as for external researchers investigating the development of ecology as a field of study and profession.