The Shepard Papers consist primarily of letters received by Jon Shepard as well as a much smaller volume of letters authored by Shepard. The correspondence documents Shepard's personal involvement in lepidoptery as a scientific discipline as well as work conducted by the community of professionals and amateurs pursuing the collection and classification of butterflies and moths across the Pacific Northwest. In this, the collection provides particular insight into the issues and interactions that were of consequence to this community during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
Shepard's letters contain exchanges with several dozen colleagues. The collection holds relatively large caches of correspondence written by the following individuals: Gary Anweiler, F. Martin Brown, Curt Eisner, Clifford Ferris, L. Paul Grey, Crispin Guppy, John Hinchliff, William H. Howe, Robert M. Pyle, James A. Scott, Ray E. Stanford, and Dave Threatful.
Recurring topics within the correspondence include advancements in a wide array of regional classification pursuits; the exchange of samples; the development of collections at repositories across North America; the emergence of new educational and employment opportunities within the field of lepidoptery; and Shepard's work on his book, The Butterflies of British Columbia. Many of the letters also include personal exchanges between Shepard and professional colleagues who became friends. A dispute between Shepard and Lloyd Janz concerning specimen inventory is likewise documented in the collection.