This image is of the Grand Teton National Park Headquarters Building a few years before the Association was created.
In December of 1936, the Grand Teton superintendent met with a group of Jackson Hole businessmen to discuss ways and means of forming an association of interested individuals to provide written educational materials to the visitors of Grand Teton National Park. At that meeting, Bruce Porter, the local druggist, donated $50.00 to begin the purchase of publications to distribute and sell to local visitors. The board selected an advisory committee consisting of, among others, Dr. Fritiof Fryxell, S.N. Leek, Harrison R. Crandall, and Olaus J. Murie. And thus, the Jackson Hole Museum and Historical Association was formed in 1937.
The original Jackson Hole Museum and Historical Association's name was changed, in 1956, to Grand Teton Natural History Association. The Association was incorporated in the state of Wyoming in 1959, and granted tax exempt status in 1966.
From its inception until 1979, the management and business decisions of the association were the responsibility of employees of the National Park Service. The park superintendent, chief naturalist, and a third appointed National Park Service employee served as members of the board.
In the summer of 1979, a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) (Appendix A) between the NPS and GTNHA was signed. The new MOA stated that "An evident and distinct separation shall be maintained between the activities of the association and those of the service. All steps shall be taken to avoid even an appearance that the service directs the management or the decision making of the association."
NPS employees could no longer make management decisions nor serve as voting members on the policy making boards of a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation whose income benefited the National Park Service. The management and operational decisions would be made by the boards of directors and carried out by employees of the association. This was a huge departure from traditional practices.
By 1980, most associations had rewritten their bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, and legal documents to reflect the changes in the MOA. Most cooperating associations, at that time, served only Department of Interior outlets.
During the early 1980's requests from other federal agencies motivated the National Park Service to request that cooperating associations aid those agencies, through contractual agreements, to establish interpretive associations. In 1982, the board of directors agreed to provide educational and interpretive materials to visitors of the National Elk Refuge and a cooperating agreement was signed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This contract was the beginning of our involvement with federal agencies other than the National Park Service. Cooperating agreements were established in 1986 and 1990 with the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests, respectively.
Since 1937, the staff, our 9 member volunteer board of directors, and the National Park Service have been involved in a wide range of activities including: operating bookstores in public visitor centers throughout Grand Teton National Park and other federal agencies; publishing trail guides, booklets, books, self guiding trail brochures, etc.; donating funds for educational and scientific programs offered to visitors to the parks, forests, and refuge; and funding special projects, research, and exhibits promoting conservation of resources.
In 2007 Grand Teton Natural History Association changed its name to Grand Teton Association. Currently, the association operates interpretive sales areas in visitor centers, including:
- the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center
- the Menor’s Ferry historic district
- Jackson Hole Airport
- Jenny Lake Visitor Center
- Colter Bay Visitor Center
- 8 district ranger stations on two national forests
- the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center
- the Miller House historic site on the National Elk Refuge