AGS Library Photographic Collections
A significant part of the AGS Library is an extensive photographic holdings, currently including nearly 584,000 images in a variety of formats. Many of the photographs were originally donated to the American Geographical Society to illustrate its publications, such as the Bulletin and Geographical Review. These photographic prints have been organized using the AGS Photo Regional and Topical Classification systems.
Distinct Photographic Collections
Cellulose nitrate film, a volatile and flammable material, was an important innovation in the field of amateur photography and was popular for well over half a century after its introduction in 1889. Many of the historic negatives housed in the American Geographical Society Library are in this format, and they are deteriorating and in need of immediate attention.
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) generously awarded the AGSL a preservation endowment in 2010 to save the 70, 920 nitrate negatives. These invaluable images span every continent with the exception of Antarctica and document a global range of peoples, cultures, and landscapes as seen through the eyes of geographers.
The Harrison Forman Collection represents the work of a prominent photojournalist from Milwaukee. It was acquired in 1987 and consists of approximately 98,000 images, primarily in the form of 35 mm slides with some prints and negatives, spanning a period of fifty years between the late 1920's to the mid 1970's. These images document cultures and landscapes in Asia and throughout the world.
One hundred and eighty six photos from this collection have been
highlighted in an online digital collection titled
Afghanistan: Images from the Harrison Forman Collection.
Milwaukee natives Richard and Ethel Herzfeld's collection of over 1,300 black and white photographs and color slides of their travel abroad, consists of Europe, Asia, South Africa and the South Pacific. The Herzfeld family papers (including travel journals and additional photographs) are can be found in the UWM Libraries Archives Department in UWM Manuscript Collection 232.
Acquired in 1985,this collection consists of
approximately 1,000 prints and negatives of China and India taken during World War II by Bert
Krawczyk, a young photographer assigned to the China Air Task Force, U.S. Army Air Corps, from 1942
through 1945. The images depict military activities and the culture of the Chinese people during
Harold Mayer was a professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and one of the leading scholars in the field of urban geography in the Twentieth Century. He specialized in urban and transport geography of North America with a focus on New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, and British Columbia. During his academic career, Mayer created an extensive photographic collection that he used as an instructional tool in his teaching. In his photography, he documented the changes in urban landscape of North and Central America. He often returned to the same city to take a picture of the same sight over the course of several years. His collection, consisting of approximately 50,000 slides, was donated to the American Geographical Society Library by his wife, Florence Mayer.
Robert S. Platt, Professor of Geography at the University of
Chicago, traveled and took photographs throughout the world. Acquired in 1982, this collection contains
approximately 34,000 images spanning the period from 1919 to 1963. It is especially strong in its
coverage of Central and South America.
A strength of the AGS Library is the number of
photographs pertaining to the discovery and exploration of the polar regions. Examples include
prints of Greenland taken during the Isaac Israel Hayes Arctic exploration of 1860-61 and
stereoscopic slides from the Arctic expedition of Count Hans Wilczek aboard the SS Isbjörn in
1872. Images in the form of prints, glass plate negatives and lantern slides document the
aero-navigation feats of Roald Amundsen, Lincoln Ellsworth, Umberto Nobile, Richard Byrd and Sir
Hubert Wilkins. Also included are large collections of prints from the eight Arctic expeditions of
Louise A. Boyd and from the Grenfell-Forbes expedition to northern Labrador.
A large collection of 35 mm slides taken by George C.
Roeming in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the United States, spans the years 1958 through
Clarence Woodrow Sorensen was an explorer, editor, and CBS staff foreign correspondent who traveled extensively capturing images of the life, work, and historical events of cultures worldwide. For his achievements he was appointed a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London. An internationally respected scholar, Sorensen was a prolific author of geography textbooks and became the sixth President of Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, in 1962.
This collection consists of albumen prints
and stereoscopicslides by the photographers of the four great western surveys. These works include:
64 prints by William Henry Jackson, photographer with the Hayden survey, of Yellowstone, the Rocky
Mountains of Colorado, and the Moqui Indian Pueblos of Arizona; 6 prints of the Grand Canyon region
by John K. Hillers, photographer with the Powell survey; 49 prints and stereoscopic slides by
William Bell, photographer with the Wheeler survey; and 441 prints and stereoscopic slides by
Timothy O’Sullivan, photographer with the King and Wheeler surveys. Also included in this
collection are 54 mammoth size prints of Yosemite by Eadweard J. Muybridge and 76 prints by
Carleton E. Watkins.
Comments or questions for the AGSL? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (414) 229-6282.