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The Murphy Award 2024

Posted 4:47 p.m. Thursday, May 23, 2024

Dave Thomson, 2024 Murphy Award Recipient

Murphy Library Recognizes Steamboat Donor

By Laura Godden, David Mindel

The Murphy Library Murphy Award is given to recognize a person or group that has contributed greatly to the library and its mission. This year, the library is posthumously honoring Dave Thomson of Sun Valley, California. 

Throughout his life, Dave collected materials on steamboats and their history. His unexpected passing in 2021 left his brother, Darryl, searching for a new home for his vast collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and ephemera. 

Darryl's decision to approach Murphy Library was influenced by its renowned status as a hub for steamboat history. Dave’s unique collection, valued at over $64,000, made a cross-country journey via semi-truck from California to Murphy Library in 2022, thus enriching the library's resources with its rare and valuable contents.  

Dave's collection being unloaded by a forklift for Murphy Library Special Collections.

The collection includes photographs, documents, books and other publications, recordings, and three large steamboat models. The library is honored that Darryl has entrusted it with housing, curating, and preserving his brother’s legacy in perpetuity. 

Even with a collection already boasting over 40,000 steamboat photographs, Dave's donation is a substantial addition that brings new dimensions to the library's holdings. This significant contribution not only enriches the library’s resources, but also strengthens its reputation as a leading authority on historic inland river steamboats.   

On Monday, May 6, 2024, Dave was posthumously honored at a ceremony held in the Murphy Library Special Collections/Area Research Center. Speakers at the event included UWL’s interim chancellor Betsy Morgan, library director John Jax, and library chair David Mindel, as well as Dave’s brother, Darryl Thomson.

This ceremony was a testament to the profound impact of Dave's contribution to the library. 

David Mindel presenting the Murphy Award to Darryl Thomson, Dave's brother in May 2024.