A passion for maps ignited more than a half-century ago and fueled by decades of collecting and study, led Arthur and Janet Holzheimer to establish–with geographers Brian Harley and David Woodward—the American Geographical Society Library (AGSL) “Maps & America” lecture series in 1990.
Art met David Woodward at the Newberry Library’s Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography in 1980; Woodward moved to UW-Madison soon thereafter.
Art also became friends with Brian Harley, a British academic, who joined the UW-Milwaukee faculty in 1986. The two geographers founded the History of Cartography project, a vast, ongoing research, editorial and publication series aimed at drawing worldwide attention to the history of maps and mapping.
It was Harley who introduced Art to the AGSL and suggested that he underwrite a map lecture series that would bring prominent geographers and scholars to UWM from around the world.
In 2006, the Holzheimers increased their support to “Maps & America” with the creation of an endowment.
Furthering their commitment to the study of maps and map history, the Holzheimers recently made a significant gift to establish a new AGSL fellowship program, which will, Art says, “promote the use of the collection—as the lectures do—but maybe in a more personal, direct way.”
He hopes that “scholars who go through the fellowship program will encourage their colleagues to apply for a grant. Some of them will come to use the resources who otherwise would not.”
Marcy Bidney, AGSL Curator, is appreciative of the support. “I am excited to continue to have the opportunity to bring researchers to the AGSL,” she says. “We always learn something about our library’s history or about pieces in our collection when we have researchers in residence, and I am very grateful for the Holzheimer’s generosity.”
AGSL will announce the first fellowship recipients this spring.
Art’s interest in maps was piqued in the 1960s in Chicago, when a business colleague’s décor choice — several antique maps — led Art to the map dealer Kenneth Nebenzhal. After some “sentimental” purchases, Art began to focus his interests.
“Our initial collection,” Art says, “was early maps relating to the discovery by Europeans of North America. In the beginning they were represented by world maps, first because they tended to be the most decorative. It was only later, as I did more reading, that those were the vehicles for showing new discoveries.
“Later the collection grew to include early maps of North America, basically from the pre-Columbian period to about 1700. The reason for that kind of artificial cut-off is that maps then become primarily scientific documents and lost a lot of their artistic appeal. The second collection is the American West in the 19th century. Now we are doing exploration by Native Americans rather than Europeans.”
Does he have a favorite map in the AGSL?
“No one favorite,” Art says. “They are all there for a reason. There are all kinds of treasures here. It is a major collection that we are trying to get better known.”
For information about contributing to the AGSL Research Fellowships Fund, please contact Herb Reichelt, UWM Libraries Development Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-229-2811.