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Elmer C. Birney papers

Identifier: ua01090

Scope and Content

The collection contains class materials, correspondence, manuscript drafts, and research data. The bulk of the collection is made up of data collected about various mammal species, and class materials about biology and mammalogy. Also, most importantly, there are materials related to Birney’s time as the curator of mammals, and eventually director, of the Bell Museum of Natural History.


  • Creation: 1892-1999


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.

Biographical Note

Elmer Clea Birney was born on March 26, 1940 in Satanta, Kansas (1). He earned his B.S. in Biology and his M.S. in Zoology from Fort Hays State University in 1963 and 1965, respectively, and his Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Kansas in 1970. Birney worked as a biology instructor at Kearney State College from 1965-1966, and he began teaching at the University of Minnesota in 1970, where he taught classes in the Department of Ecology and Behavioral Biology (now the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior). He became an assistant professor in 1970, an associate professor in 1974, and a full professor in 1981. Outside of teaching, he also served on many university and college-specific committees, including the General Biology Program committee (1979-2000), Departmental Curriculum committee (1974-1980, 1996-1997), and All-University committee on Collections (1990-1995) (2). He also served as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Ecology program (1981-1984, 1998-2000) and the Zoology program (1985-2000).

Birney played a major role in the Bell Museum of Natural History (1). He held the position of curator of mammals from 1970-2000. Between 1990 and 1992, he took over as the Director of the museum, and worked on restructuring museum operations, while also increasing public awareness of the museum itself. Birney also conducted yearly field research on mammals, beginning in 1962. Most of the research was conducted in the central and western United States, but he also conducted significant research in Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Chile, and Mexico (1). Alongside his research, Birney was involved in many scientific societies, including the American Society of Mammalogists, the Ecological Society of America, the Society of American Naturalists, and the Society of Systematic Zoology. Elmer C. Birney passed away June 11, 2000 (2).


(1) Biographical File, Birney, Elmer C., Information files collection, University Archives.

(2) Obituary: Elmer Clea Birney, 1940-2000.


23 Cubic Feet (16 record boxes, 1 hollinger box and 4 flat boxes)

Language of Materials



Collection contains the papers of Elmer C. Birney, professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota, and curator of mammals and director at the Bell Museum. These papers include class materials, correspondence, manuscript drafts, materials from the Bell Museum, and research data about various small mammal species.


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series 1: Professional Material, 1892-1999
    • Subseries 1.1: Bell Museum, 1966-1998
    • Subseries 1.2: Correspondence, 1966-1998
    • Subseries 1.3: Course Material, 1912-1998
    • Subseries 1.4: Departmental Material, 1970-1990
    • Subseries 1.5: Manuscripts, 1949-1998
    • Subseries 1.6: Project Material,1962-1982
    • Subseries 1.7: Woodrat Research Data, 1892-1974
  • Series 2: Research Data, 1951-1999

Source of acquisition

Acquired through Kristin M. Kramer through the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History, as well as the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, on July 31 of 2000.

Processing Information

Processing completed with funds from the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society (2021-2022).

Elmer C. Birney papers, 1960-2000
Karen Spilman; Katelyn Morken; Adriana Esparza
February 2005; August 2021; May 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • July-August 2021: Contents list added, notes updated
  • May 2022: Additional material added

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area