The Nelson brothers’ adventures hunting and camping, their seed farm and photography businesses, their invention of an imaginary world, and their book-writing and publishing ventures were all inherently collaborative activities. The brothers worked and played together. Inspired by their spirit, this project is itself an adventure in collaboration.


A few of the Nelson brothers home-made books as Pam Russell first took them out of their box

After Pamela Russell acquired the box full of little books, now held in Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College, she showed them to Karen Sánchez-Eppler. Karen recognized that this unknown treasure would be a perfect subject for the Mellon Research Seminar “The Archives of Childhood” she had already agreed to teach. Five fabulous students enrolled in a course dedicated to studying and transcribing these manuscript books and to creating an online exhibition about them. The staff at the Amherst College Library and the Amherst College Office of Information Technology generously agreed to support this project with their time and expertise.

When Karen contacted the Goshen Historical Society, she learned that, perhaps not surprisingly, the record-keeping and archival passions of the Nelson family were a source of much of the material in the Society’s collection, and that active members of the Goshen Historical Society presently include one of Elmer Nelson’s granddaughters, Beatrice Jillette. The Goshen Historical Society generously hosted research visits and have allowed us to include in this site the Nelson family journals and other daily writing in their collection, as well as transcriptions they have made of Nelson papers that belong to the family. They have also given permission to scan and incorporate into this site their extraordinary collection of photographic glass plate negatives taken by Arthur and Elmer Nelson during the late 1890s and early 1900s. Other members of the Nelson family have been enthusiastic about this project as well. Rebecca Onion's generous Slate article on the Nelsons and this online exhibit has done much to call attention to this archive prompting new insights and information from readers.

So there are many organizations and people to thank. We are very grateful for the support of the Amherst College Library, the Amherst College Office of Information Technology, the Goshen Historical Society, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Nelson family. Particular thanks go to Nora Bannon, Brian Nelson Burford, Jill Cashman, Bridget Dahill, Amy and Steve Eppler-Epstein, Miodrag Glumac, Beatrice Jillette, Michael Kelley, Lena Lamer, Mariah Leavitt, Murray McClellan, Dunstan McNutt, Janet and Sherman O’Brian, Scott Payne, Colin Sanborn, Kelcy Shepherd, Sasha Smith, Patricia Stephan, Sarah Walden, John and Mary Wirkkala, Nadia  Waski, Julia Yermans, and of course Arthur, Elmer, and Walter Nelson, the best collaborators of all!



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