Mapping the World

When I was a kid, I used to savor the National Geographic magazines and loved looking at the maps of faraway places.  I was thinking about this when we recently traveled to Croatia because it was a bit confusing to me about where the country lines had been drawn since Yugoslavia ceased to exist.  I was quite good in memorizing all those maps we had to do in 7th grade social studies, but the world keeps changing and it's a challenge to keep up.
Some of the globes on display at the entrance to the AGS Library

Lucky for me we have a great resource right here in Milwaukee- the American Geographical Society Library which includes maps and photos of worldwide interest. There are more than a million items with some as old as the 16th century.  Formerly the library and map collection of the American Geographical Society of New York, it was transferred to Milwaukee in 1978.  It's housed at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Golda Meir library on the third floor, east wing and is open to the public Monday through Friday 8-4:30.  If you have something in mind you're looking for, you can make an appointment and a staff member can pull out items which interest you.  When you walk in unannounced, you will see many globes and rotating presentations they have chosen to post, but most of the collection is in storage in the many drawers within the library.
There are rows filled with cabinets and globes

There's also a special collections room which houses the oldest materials- basically anything prior to 1900.  The librarian allowed me to come in to take a peek and I was amazed and humbled by what I saw.  Charles Lindbergh's map from his transcontinental flight.  Photos of Yosemite taken before Ansel Adams was even born, perhaps taken by Carleton Watkins in 1861. Books that smelled interestingly ancient.  Whaling maps. Photographs taken by Timothy O'Sullivan when he accompanied US engineers on a geological exploration.
A portion of Lindbergh's map- he cut away just the piece he needed to take with him

Lindbergh's comments in his pen!

And Lindbergh's signature!

Similar to Ansel Adams but the photographer may have been Carleton Watkins 
If you're not able to make the trip to the library, you can view much of the collection on-line.  It's a fun way to lose yourself for a couple of hours!  If you find you'd like a copy of anything they can print it for a reasonable price- less than $2 per square foot.  I saw some of the prints they made which were high quality color.

You can attend lectures several times a year.  The next is April 23 at 6 pm when the program will highlight pictorial maps.

I might add that this little library is getting some attention lately.  Even Atlas Obscura included it on their website just this week.  Now there's another website where you can get completely lost.  Go ahead and take a look!


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