Association of American Geographers

The Archives of the
Association of American Geographers

Maintained in the American Geographical Society Library,
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Early in the 1960’s there arose a concern relating to the archives of the Association. The 1904 founding was receding from human memory (founder Barrett remained) and the Association was assuming the form of an historical undertaking.

At that time, Ralph Ehrenberg and Patrick McLaughlin, then employed in the U. S. National Archives, began to assemble working papers of the Association of American Geographers. In 1964 G. Martin published in The Professional Geographer a brief essay entitled "Geographers and Archives: A Suggestion," proposing the establishment of an AAG commission which would assist in the development of an archival holding and an inventory of geographic archival materials already in safe keeping. This led to the formation of both an official archive and the Committee on Archives and Association History in 1970. R. E. Ehrenberg (1970-1974), W. A. Koelsch (1974-1975), and G. J. Martin (1975-1986) served successively as chairs of this committee.

Two functions were discharged over the years that followed by this committee. The first was to hold a special session at the annual meeting relating immediately to archives and association history. These meetings were very successful and at Atlanta (1973) and Milwaukee (1975) attendance at each of the sessions exceeded 300 persons. These meetings have continued to the present though attendance is now not what it once was. The second function was the development of an archival holding. The collection in process, a rapid formation, was held in the National Archives Building, then transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, then to the American Philosophical Society and in 1996 was deposited with the American Geographical Society Library in Milwaukee. From 1969 R. E. Ehrenberg was archivist of the Association until 1986: in that year G. J. Martin was appointed archivist and continues in that position to the present.

Additional to the collection of traditional archival material (i.e., largely in-house institution papers) Martin began to gather papers of earlier members including those of O. E. Baker, R. Hartshorne, E. van Cleef, S. S. Visher (and some materials relating to W. M. Davis, A. K. Lobeck and J. R. Smith). The collection continues to grow and approximates 200 cubic feet.

The earlier part of the collection was inventoried by R. E. Ehrenberg, J. Glenn and others: material from the more recent years has been inventoried by Norman R. Stewart of Milwaukee. G. Martin functions as an intermediate sorting official between the AAG office and Milwaukee.

The collection now extends to 359 boxes and is maintained in most excellent circumstances. The whole is an institutional archive and therefore concerns the growth of the AAG in its many dimensions, detail of programs, meetings, selection and election of officials, et al.

-- Geoffrey Martin, Association Archivist


Archives of the Association of American Geographers - General Information
The AAG Archives, received in 1996 by the AGS Library in UWM’s Golda Meir Library, currently consist of four parts (Part I, Part II, Part III, and Addenda). In general, Part I includes material from the Association’s founding in 1904 to 1966 and was roughly organized in the various venues in which it was housed (e.g. American Philosophical Society). Part II, largely unprocessed material from 1966 to 1992, has been organized according to guidelines provided by the Golda Meir Library archivist. The resulting organization of the two parts differs slightly in category and sequence. Users should be aware of inevitable chronological overlap and duplication between the parts. Some cross-referencing is supplied, but may not include all appropriate cases.

The Addenda consist of special collections, not strictly a part of the AAG Archives, but important in the development and practice of geographic scholarship.

As a “living archive”, material is continuously being accessioned, and processed roughly in the order received. The search for Presidential and other personal papers is active and contributions are welcomed, as are notices of errors, omissions, and suggestions for improvement.

Archives of the Association of American Geographers - Part I
As noted above, the first part of the AAG Archives consists of the earliest documents chronicling the origin, development and management of the Association from early 20th Century to the 1960s. The material was organized and cataloged in the various venues in which it was held. Original organization has been left largely intact, with appropriate conservation measures applied.

Archives of the Association of American Geographers - Part II
The Second Part of the AAG Archives consists of materials, widely ranging in date, added both while the Archives was located in Philadelphia and after its transfer to the AGS Library. The materials received in Philadelphia were neither processed nor inventoried. Ordinary file folders of similar content were grouped in boxes, with little verification of contents. Only a brief contents note was written on the individual boxes. Other materials, accumulated by the Association Archivist, were delivered to Milwaukee in 1998 and 2001. To provide immediate access to all these materials, AGS Library staff created a brief inventory of the contents in 1999.

The massive job of processing and inventorying this material was undertaken, on a voluntary basis, by Prof. Emeritus Norman Stewart of the UWM Department of Geography, beginning in 2000. Since that time, all of this material has been reorganized, properly housed and described in detail. This newly created inventory, an AAG "Centennial Project," is included in this web site.

The documentary archival materials have been processed consistent with guidelines provided by the UWM Libraries Archives Department. The resulting organization differs slightly from the Part I Shelf List. For example, "Administrative Records are here divided into "Administration" (the nuts and bolts of Association management) and "Governance" (involving matters of policy). Also, "Committees, Commissions, and Task Forces" are combined in a single series, recognizing their complex web of overlapping and interlocking functions and history.

The organization is alphabetical at the Series level and chronological within, except as noted in introductory notes in each series. The materials range from 1918 to 2009, though chronological coverage is highly varied depending on the Series. It should be noted that materials in Part I overlap - and may duplicate - those in Part II, especially those noted as "Boxed in 1986." Please refer to the Table of Contents for the overall organizational configuration of Part II.

Please note that correspondence in bound letterbooks was left as received (recent date first). Loose correspondence is presented chronologically earliest through latest; occasionally letters restricted to a specific matter are lumped together out of chronological order. The user should also be aware that even mundane correspondence (e.g. acknowledgement of meeting attendance) may contain comments or references to issues or individuals beyond its primary purpose.

Photographs are filed where they occurred in the Archive (e.g., Annual Meetings, Regional Divisions); however, the majority for the final Series (#18). In some cases, the occasion as well as the subjects of individual and group photos remain unidentified.

Contact Information

The Archives of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) is located in the American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Libraries, 2311 E. Hartford Ave, Milwaukee, WI, 53211. [See campus maps]

Mailing address: AGS Library, PO Box 399, Milwaukee, WI 53201-0399
Phone: (414) 229-6282

Dr. Geoffrey J. Martin is the official Archivist of the AAG.
Mailing address: 33 Fairgrounds Road, Woodbridge, CT 06525
Phone: (203) 387-5028

Dr. Norman Stewart, who has processed and inventoried Part II, and is currently reviewing Part I, can be reached at the AGS Library.

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Finding Aid

Archives of the Association of American Geographers - Part I (early documents)

Table of Contents

      I. Accessions (Box 1)

      II. Constitution and Bylaws (Box 2)

      III. Administrative Records (Boxes 3-40)

      IV. Membership Records (Boxes 41-57)

      V. Committee Records (Boxes 58-93)

      VI. Project and Program Records (Boxes 94-97)

      VII. Annual Meeting Records (Boxes 98-110)

      VIII. Regional Division Records (Boxes 111-114)

      IX. Publication Records (Boxes 115-123)

      X. External Relations (Boxes 124-140)


Archives of the Association of American Geographers - Part II (materials dating between 1918 to 2009)

Table of Contents


Series #18 Photographs (largely of National Meetings)


Archives of the Association of American Geographers - Addenda

Table of Contents

  • Geography Department Histories (Contributed by Drs. Michael Comeaux and Janice Monk)
  • Women in Geography Project (Tapes and some transcripts of interviews conducted and contributed by Dr. Janice Monk)
  • C. W. Thornthwaite Reprint Collection (Massive collection of scholarly reprints reflecting his specialty in climatology, and related matter, dating from the late 19th Century to his death in 1963. Contributed by Dr. Frederick Nelson and the Geography Department at the University of Delaware)
  • The Relaciones Geograficas (Official Spanish Surveys of their Colonial New World, with considerable associated materials, contributed by Dr. Clinton R. Edwards)



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