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Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories records

Identifier: ua-00585

Scope and Content

The Itasca Biology Station records consist of correspondence, reports, committee minutes, grant materials, station histories, papers, and publications related to biology instruction and field work conducted at the station. Inclusive collection dates are 1909 to 2000: bulk dates are 1954 to 1970.

The collection consists primarily of material from three Station-based programs- the Summer Institute for High School Biology Teachers, the College Teachers Institute, and a Research and Training program underwritten by the National Science Foundation. Each program generated correspondence, scholarly papers written by program participants and annual reports. In addition to the program materials, there are reports concerning classes for University of Minnesota undergraduates and graduates in Forestry and Biology programs, reports and minutes from the Itasca Advisory Committee and correspondence between deans of the Department and Institute of Agriculture, academic program directors and Itasca station directors. The collection is particularly strong documenting student work and operations of the three summer programs from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s.

The collection is arranged in five series:

Series 1, Programs, is divided into three sub-series. Subseries 1, College Teachers, contains correspondence, reports, evaluations and papers from the College Summer Institute, which offered research opportunities for college faculty and included an advanced teaching component. Subseries 2, High School Teachers, contains administrative correspondence, annual reports, follow-up surveys and evaluations, and student papers from the summer institutes conducted for high school biology teachers. Subseries 3, Research Grants, contains materials related to the work of college and university faculty doing independent research at the Biology Station.

Series 2, Reports and Minutes, includes minutes from the Itasca Advisory Committee, Station Committee reports, Station Director’s reports and reports to the National Science Foundation.

Series 3, Correspondence, includes correspondence between the Institute of Agriculture and program and station directors, as well as the director’s correspondence with guest instructors, University faculty, support staff, prospective students and foundations.

Series 4, Subject Files, includes the history of the Lake Itasca Park and park buildings, course materials, library and facilities lists, publicity for the summer programs, scholarship, foundation information and visitor information.

Series 5, Photograph Files, consisting of slides and photographs of activities, people, buildings and laboratories, and events on the station campus.


  • Creation: 1909-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found within ( 1954-1970)


Language of Materials

Collection materials in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Historical Note

At the December 11, 1906, Board of Regents meeting, the minutes noted, “A communication from Prof. (Samuel B.) Green of the School of Agriculture, concerning the use of Itasca Park for purposes of instruction in Forestry was referred to the Legislature of Minnesota for consideration.” The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill in 1907 authorizing a forestry school in Itasca Park.

The 1908-1909 University Bulletin for the College of Agriculture described classes taught at Itasca Park. The courses included seeding and planting, mensuration, sylviculture, foreign forestry, and surveying under the Forestry Course of Study. The Bulletin also included the following description, “Itasca state park…is used by the Forestry School as a demonstration forest and experiment station. Every student spends about twelve months in the park during his course and does practical work in all branches. The use of this park gives the Minnesota Forestry School a forest equipment which is unsurpassed anywhere.”

During the 1920s, forestry field work at the Itasca Station was joined with other course offerings including field zoology, forest botany, field taxonomy, advanced taxonomy of flowering plants, and field ecology through the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics.

The 1934-1936 President’s Report noted “an increasing demand on the part of interested students and teachers of biological subjects for the continuation of opportunities for study during the…University's regular Summer Session. Therefore, in the second term of the 1935 session a six-week field course of study was established under the name of the Itasca Park Forestry and Biological Station.” The University Bulletin for Summer Session Courses in 1939 described courses at Itasca as “an excellent opportunity for the study of terrestrial and fresh-water biology in its most fundamental aspects.” The session’s courses were offered cooperatively by departments in the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Home Economics and the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts. Courses and included field botany, field entomology, wildlife conservation, and field mycology.

Summer session forestry courses continued to be offered at the Itasca station for upper level undergraduate students as well as graduate students.

From 1909 to 1940, the Itasca station was known by different names, including University Sub-station at Itasca State Park, Forest Experiment Station at Itasca, Lake Itasca Forestry Station, and Itasca Park Forestry and Biological Station.

At their January 12, 1940, meeting, the Board of Regents voted “on recommendation of the Committee on Naming of Buildings to name the University plant at Itasca Park the Lake Itasca Forestry and Biological Station.” Thorvald Schantz-Hansen was named director of the Station.

In 1954, grants from the National Science Foundation and the Fund for Advancement of Education enabled the University to offer awards to college biology faculty and high school biology teachers for summer field experience at the Lake Itasca Station. The summer institutes proved highly successful and were continued.

In 1966, the Field Biology Program was established in the College of Biological Sciences to “further develop the activities in research and teaching that exploit the two excellent field stations maintained by the University (Cedar Creek Natural History Area and Itasca Forest Biological Station).”

From the 1960s to the 1990s, separate directors oversaw the program needs of the biology summer sessions and forestry summer sessions. The Station’s administrative home was the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics and the Institute of Agriculture until 1976 when it came under the administrative structure of the College of Biological Sciences.

The station’s name was changed to Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories in 2002, which was described as a “field station dedicated to learning how ecosystems work, appreciating their value, and preserving them for future generations.” At this time, summer sessions for forestry were no longer offered at the Itasca Station.

Lake Itasca Forestry and Biological Station Directors

  1. Thorvald Schnatz-Hansen, 1940-1960
  2. Theodore Fenske, 1960-1963
  3. W. H. Marshall, 1963-1971
  4. David Parmelee, 1971-1986
  5. Donald Siniff, 1986-1998


12.5. Cubic Feet (10 boxes)


The Itasca Biology Station records consist of correspondence, reports, committee minutes, grant materials, station histories, papers, publications and photographs related to biology instruction and field work conducted at the station.

Source of acquisition

The bulk of the collection was deposited in University Archives between 1961 and 1998. An accrual of photographic materials was added in 2013.

Processing Information

This collection was processed with funds provided by the State of Minnesota through the Minnesota Historical Society from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

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Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories records, 1909-2000
Karen Spilman
June 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area