John Heminway

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Montana State University’s Library has acquired a collection of materials from John Heminway, a Bozeman-based, award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker.

“John Heminway’s collection reflects the life’s work of one of Bozeman’s most creative forces, and it will be a wonderful addition to the MSU Library Special Collections and Archives,” said Kenning Arlitsch, MSU Library dean. “It will become a teaching and research tool for students and faculty interested in communicating environmental, social and scientific developments.”

The collection, which will be available for the public to view in MSU Library’s Special Collection and Archives, covers more than 55 years of “adventuring, writing and reporting on the wonders of the world, the treasures of our environment and the human condition in some of the Earth’s most remote and wild regions,” according to Timothy Gordon, a colleague of Heminway’s who is familiar with the collection. Dating from the 1960s through today, the collection includes manuscripts, scripts and screenplays written by Heminway; interviews; original 16 mm films; correspondence; journals; historical photography; and printed materials.

“I feel enormously comfortable – indeed honored – that the MSU Library has now become the guardian of my life’s work,” Heminway said. “There are few words left to describe my good luck pursuing a career that has taken me to glorious corners of the Earth, introduced me to giants and forced me to pose endless questions. I hope that my scribblings and films will inspire others to take up the journey, tell stories and endeavor to change minds.”

Heminway’s career as a “filmmaker’s filmmaker” includes more than 100 films spanning four decades. His documentaries about science, the environment and Africa, in particular, have earned him two Emmys, two Peabody Awards and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University journalism award. His 2013 broadcast of “Battle for the Elephants,” produced with Katie Carpenter and J.J. Kelley, was voted the best conservation film at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

The sequel to the film, “Warlords of Ivory,” in which Heminway exposed how the illicit ivory trade funds militias and terrorist groups by placing GPS trackers into fake ivory tusks, re-launched National Geographic Channel’s Explorer Series and was nominated for an Emmy as well as honored in a special ceremony at the United Nations.

In addition to his filmmaking work, he has written books about both Africa and Montana including “In Full Flight” and “Yonder: A Place in Montana,” a memoir about living in the West Boulder Valley.

Heminway has served on the boards or advisory councils of many environmental causes, including the African Wildlife Foundation, where he was board chairman for nine years, Trout Unlimited, American Prairie Reserve, White Oak Conservation Center, Tusk and Elephant Family. In 2013, famed paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey appointed Heminway chairman of WildlifeDirect, an organization founded by Leakey and dedicated to changing laws and behavior related to wildlife crime in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa.

A native of New York City, Heminway, his wife and daughter have lived in Bozeman for more than 15 years. Heminway has been an adjunct lecturer at the MSU School of Film and Photography, as well as a supporter of MSU’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders and its work in Kenya, hosting screenings of his films as fundraisers for the group. He is a member of the MSU Honors College External Advisory Council and a supporter of Montana PBS. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, the Explorers’ Club and the Royal Geographic Society, among others. In 2016, he received an honorary doctorate from MSU.

Heminway’s “biography and awards prove that he is not only a noted author, but also an accomplished filmmaker, a much celebrated, pertinent and influential environmentalist, an active film producer, a gifted film director, a famous television presenter and a daring adventurer,” Gordon said. “His amazing career crosses over into many fields of interests and the value of his papers can be compared across many fields of interest with other notables.”

The collection should be of interest to a range of people, said Arlitsch, who added that he was grateful to Ilse-Mari Lee, dean of the MSU Honors College, for introducing him to Heminway in 2018.

Lee noted that she is grateful to Heminway and his family for being “tremendous friends and supporters” of the university over the last decade.

“Through the many guest lectures, film screenings and panels John has graciously agreed to participate in, he has inspired and encouraged generations of students to pursue their passions and make a difference in this world,” Lee said. “We are honored that an archive of John’s creative work will be housed in the MSU Library. Through this gift, generations of future students and faculty will be inspired by his dedication and commitment as a journalist, filmmaker and author of the highest caliber. There is no end to his generosity and support of our institution. For this, we are deeply grateful.”

The MSU Library’s Special Collections and Archives has more than 800 active collections. It specializes in collections related to Montana agriculture and ranching, Montana architecture and engineering, Montana history, MSU history, Native Americans in Montana, regional writers, trout and salmonids, U.S. Sen. Burton K. Wheeler, and Yellowstone National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. More information is available online at www.lib.montana.edu/archives/.

Montana residents and MSU affiliates may borrow materials from the MSU Library, and everyone is welcome in the library. More information is available at www.lib.montana.edu/.

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