While non-numismatic, the bibliophiles and researchers among us will appreciate this story about the home of the American Geographical
Society library. -Editor
the campus of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is a geographer’s treasure trove: over a million artifacts from the American Geographical
Society, one of the most incredible collections of maps, atlases and globes to be found in America.
It's an inconspicuous home for a storied collection: this is the final resting place of the library of the illustrious American
Geographical Society. Once a powerhouse of exploratory resources, the organization had fallen on hard times in the late 1970s. The private
donations and corporate funding on which they had been reliant, had reduced to a trickle, and the Society was forced to sell its imposing
neo-classical headquarters in Manhattan’s Washington Heights.
Eventually downsizing to a small rental office in Brooklyn, the Society was adamant that its unparalleled collection should be kept
intact. Resisting the temptation to sell off its valuable archive, including the remarkable signed AGS Fliers and Explorers Globe, they
undertook a nationwide search for a suitable home. As current AGS President, Professor Jerry Dobson explains, “The truth is that our
revenues didn’t allow us to take care of the collection in a proper manner, so we held a national competition for a suitable
Faculty members of the geography department at UWM heard what was happening and applied. The University itself was barely 20 years old,
but had a brand new library building large enough to house the entire collection. The New York States Attorney office wasn’t happy that the
rich cultural heritage and treasures of the Society would be leaving the State of New York, but with no other viable option to take the
collection as a whole, the decision was taken to send the collection to Wisconsin in 1978.
It took 16 trucks to move the vast collection, where it lives and is actively curated today in the Golda Meir Library. Incredibly, the
precious collection is publicly available.
Entering the library, the first thing that strikes you is the amount of globes—there are hundreds of globes on permanent display,
including one dating as early as 1613. The largest globe is a rare example of the giant “President’s Globe”. Made during World War II by
the Office of Strategic Services (the OSS was the predecessor of the CIA), the 50 inch diameter globes were made for President Roosevelt
and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Weighing over 700 pounds, and thought to be the most detailed and accurate globes made up until that
point, the intent was that FDR and Churchill would have an identical reference source as they plotted their war plans. Roosevelt kept the
giant globe next to his desk in the Oval office, and it can now be found in his former home in Hyde Park.
To read the complete article, see:
INSIDE THE MOST AMAZING MAP LIBRARY
THAT YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF (www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-most-amazing-map-library-that-you-ve-never-heard-of)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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