Montana State University

Montana State University acquires papers of renowned author Ivan Doig

September 2, 2015

The archive of acclaimed writer Ivan Doig, who died in April at age 75, will find a home in Doig’s native Montana. Doig’s manuscripts, file cards, drafts, slides, tapes and other materials have been acquired by Montana State University, where they will be housed in the MSU Library’s Special Collections & Archives. Also, the MSU College of Letters and Science will integrate the collection into university teaching and research, including a scholarly conference named for Doig. Photo by Carol Doig.

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The papers of the late Ivan Doig, called “a presiding figure in the literature of the American West,” will return to the writer’s native state, finding a home at Montana State University, university officials announced today.

MSU’s President Waded Cruzado said the university was “overjoyed” at the acquisition of the archive.

“Few times in our lives we have an opportunity to witness a transformational event. This is exactly what the acquisition of the Doig collection represents for our library and for Montana State University,” Cruzado said. “The Doig collection will continue to establish Montana State University not only as a great school in agriculture and STEM, but also as a land-grant university fully committed to the humanities."

Carol Doig, widow of the celebrated writer who died in April at age 75, said she chose MSU over two major West Coast universities as a location for the archive, which will be housed in the MSU Library’s Special Collections and Archives. In addition, the MSU College of Letters and Science will integrate the papers into several teaching, research and scholarly activities, including a future conference.

“Ivan's archive is coming home,” Carol Doig said in announcing the commitment of her husband’s manuscripts, file cards, drafts, slides, tapes and other materials to MSU.

“He considered Bozeman as home territory: the shopping center for his family when they lived in Ringling and White Sulphur Springs, and when his family ran sheep in the Bridgers. Montana State University welcomed him early in his writing career, and recognized him with an honorary doctorate. I'm delighted that MSU will make his archive available both locally and globally."

Doig, who grew up in White Sulphur Springs and Dupuyer, was a writer of international acclaim who published 16 volumes of fiction and non-fiction. His first book, “This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind,” a poetic memoir published in 1979, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Doig then turned to writing fiction that perennially hit best-seller lists. His final book, “Last Bus to Wisdom,” which was published last month, is currently number 13 on the New York Times fiction best-seller list and number 9 on the National Independent Booksellers Association list.

Although he had lived in Seattle for many years, the lives of his characters more often than not shared Doig’s Big Sky roots. In his obituary, the New York Times wrote that Doig “created a body of work that helped shape our understanding of rural working-class life in the postwar American West.”

Doig held both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern University and a doctorate in history from the University of Washington. He was editor of The Rotarian magazine prior to turning to writing books. In 2007, Doig won the prestigious Wallace Stegner Award, named for the fellow prominent novelist and Western historian.

A frequent visitor to Bozeman, Doig received an honorary doctorate from MSU in 1984. Doig was profiled in a 2009 issue of MSU’s Mountains and Minds magazine about his book, “The 11th Man,” which was inspired by MSU lore -- the death of 11 players on Montana State College's football team during World War II. In the Mountains and Minds interview, Doig spoke about his friendship with MSU’s late President Michael P. Malone, a historian whom Doig considered a colleague.

Kenning Arlitsch, dean of the MSU Library, said the library will digitize the entire collection and make it available to the public on the Web as well as in print in the library’s Special Collections and Archives.

"By committing Ivan’s archive to MSU, Carol Doig is placing immense trust in the institution and its people," Arlitsch said. “Our proposal to Carol was unique in that it offered a partnership of the MSU Library and the College of Letters and Science that will ensure open access to print and digital versions of the collection, as well as integration with MSU’s teaching and research programs.”

Nicol Rae, dean of the MSU College of Letters and Science, said the college plans a scholarly conference on Doig’s legacy to be held in 2017. He added that the arrival of the Ivan Doig Collection at MSU, following the appointment of Rick Bass as the college’s first Western writer in residence earlier this year, cements MSU’s standing as a major center of excellence for teaching and scholarship on the American West.

“The arrival of the Doig collection will have a transformational impact on teaching and scholarship on the American West at MSU,” Rae said.  He added that the college will be raising funds for a visiting professorship at MSU named in honor of Doig.

Arlitsch and Rae said 26 people, including scholars, local writers and members of the community, wrote in support of housing the archive at MSU.

“(The proposal) rallied an enormous expression of support from the Bozeman-area literary community and MSU faculty and administrators,” Arlitsch said. He added that funding the acquisition will be made possible, in part, by a lead gift to the MSU Alumni Foundation by long-time MSU Library supporters Jim and Sue Hamilton of Bozeman.

"We are grateful to Carol Doig for entrusting this extraordinary collection to MSU, and we were delighted to participate in the collaborative effort to make the acquisition," the Hamiltons said in an email statement.

         

Kenning Arlitsch (406) 994-6978, kenning.arlitsch@montana.edu