As one of California's most important historical figures, John Muir (1838-1914) was a regional naturalist with global impact. His papers, housed in the library's Holt-Atherton Special Collections, are among the University's most important resources for scholarly research.

The John Muir Center was established in 1989 to encourage greater use of the John Muir Papers by the scholarly community and to promote the study of California and its impact upon the global community.

Muir's Legacy

Several of Muir's descendants attended University of the Pacific during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1970, the heirs of Muir's two daughters, Wanda Muir-Hanna and Helen Muir-Funk, entrusted University of the Pacific with the majority of John Muir's manuscripts and personal papers. That indefinite loan led to additional acquisitions, including most of Muir's personal library and a portion of his office furniture from his home in Martinez. In 2019, Pacific was given ownership of Muir's papers.


In an effort to continue Muir's legacy as a guardian of the environment, the John Muir Center encourages students to get involved in sustainability and green initiatives at Pacific. One avenue for involvement is joining a student organization that focuses on the environment and sustainability.

John Muir Collections

The John Muir Papers is a collection of the writings, correspondence, journals, drawings and other documents produced by John Muir. The John Muir Center is committed to promoting the use of John Muir collections curated by the University of the Pacific Library's Holt-Atherton Special Collections. We encourage faculty and students at Pacific, as well as researchers from around the world, to use and interpret Muir's works for themselves.

john muir statue

Courses and Internships

John Muir (1838-1914) is considered by most the "father" of the modern Conservation Movement. This course traces his life, his conservation crusades, and his global legacy. Home of the John Muir Papers, University of the Pacific's Library will be used by all students in the course for research on an aspect of John Muir's contributions to conservation. Field trips to the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez and to Yosemite National Park are often a part of this course.

Topical survey of historical roots of environmental crises in contemporary North America beginning with western concepts of natural history. Main focus: three centuries of changing American attitudes, policies and activities that led to the rise of the Conservation Movement by the late nineteenth century. Tensions between users and preservers, and the development of an ecological school of environmentalism since the 1940s are covered. 

A study of the causes and consequences of America's westward expansion and settlement, from Spanish and French beginnings to modern times, with emphasis on the people, the myths and the technologies that have shaped western development and culture.

A survey of the Golden State from its first description as a mythical island in the 16th century to the state's economic and political prominence in our own times. Native American beginnings, Spanish Mission Period, Mexican California, the Gold Rush and its consequences, and Modern California from World War II to the present are emphasized. Class participants select famous "California History Makers" and present their own research with presentations on notable figures in the State's unique history, from Spanish friars and explorers to politicians, inventors, scientists, Hollywood's most influential, and others in California's Hall of Fame. Especially recommended for future educators, but open to all.

Students can earn course credit through the internship program offered by the John Muir Center. The internship consists of a supervised experiential learning opportunity involving:

  • Library or museum research and operations on a subject connected with John Muir's life or legacy
  • Field or office work within an environmental organization or federal, state or local environmental agency
  • Educational work through an environmental institute or institution