American Geographical Society Library



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AGS Library Photographic Collections

Background Polar Exploration
NEH Grant Roeming Collection
Boyd Collection Sorensen Collection
Forman Collection Western Photograph Collection
Herzfeld Collection
Krawczyk Collection Access
Mayer Collection Photographic Collections Finding Aids
Platt Collection Online Digital Collections


Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. Timothy O’Sullivan, ca. 1870.
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona.  Timothy O'Sullivan, ca. 1870.

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
Many photographic images in the AGS Library are parts of distinct photographic collections that reflect a broad range of times, places and activities. The following list is a sample of the more prominent photographic collections in the AGS Library. A more detailed overview of the photographic resources appears in Kaleidoscope of History: Photographic Collections in the Golda Meir Library (1990), several copies of which are in the UWM Libraries' holdings. Kaleidoscope of History is also available for purchase through the AGS Library.


NEH Grant to preserve nitrate negatives in the AGS Library

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.

More about the project.


Boyd Collection

Consists of over 3,000 prints and negatives depicting Poland, former Czechslovakia, Germany, Scandinavia, Danzig Free State, Tilsit (now Sovetsk), and Greenland in the 1930s. Topics include agriculture, industry, Laplander life and customs. The collection is primarily dedicated to rural and village life in Poland taken by Louise Arner Boyd while traveling by car in 1934. Many of these views accompany the written account of her trip, Polish Countrysides, published in 1937 by the AGS. Photographs from her 1931 and 1933 expeditions to Greenland, also published by the AGS in The Coast of Northeast Greenland and The Fiord Region of East Greenland, are including in the AGS Library's holdings.



A Tibetan sorcerer. Harrison Forman, ca.1940.

Forman Collection

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.




Herzfeld 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.



Yunnan Province, China. Bert Krawczyk, 1943.

Krawczyk Collection

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 the 1940's.





Cargo boats docked in East River, New York, New York.
Harold Mayer, 1962.



Mayer collection

Harold Mayer Collection

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.


Platt Collection

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.

The ‘Panther’ in Melville Bay. Isaac Israel Hayes,

Polar Exploration Collection

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.


Roeming Collection

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 1984.


Hong Kong; Woman with child waiting for bus. Eugene Harris, ca. 1950s.
Sorensen Collection

Edna Schaus Sorensen and Clarence W. Sorensen Collection

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.

During Sorenson’s extensive travels, Eugene V. Harris, a professional photographer, accompanied him taking thousands of the more than 64,000 beautiful Kodachrome slides that make up this collection.



Yosemite Valley from the ‘Best General View. No.2. Carleton E. Watkins, ca. 1866.

Western Photograph Collection

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.


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