Extensive Slide Collection by Twentieth-Century “Marco Polo” Now Digitized

Bolivia, Chacaltaya Ski Lodge on cliff of Chacaltaya Mountain. Photo by Harrison Forman, 1954.

The UWM Libraries have completed the digitization of over 50,000 color slides from the American Geographical Society Library’s Harrison Forman collection, and, as of this July, more than 33,500 of those slides have been added to the Libraries’ Digital Collections.

Harrison Forman (1904-1978), a native of Milwaukee, was an adventurous journalist, photographer, and explorer, and was called “a modern Marco Polo” during his lifetime.

In his career as a photographer, Forman created a unique visual record of the life and cultures of East Asia, Indochina, the Middle East, South Pacific, Africa and South America.

Highlights include images of the Sydney Opera House (Australia) under construction; in Bolivia, the collection includes images of the Chacaltaya Ski Lodge, Club Andino Boliviano, which was once the highest ski-able peak in its time, and has now melted years before predicted.

Images from China include photographs of Beijing and the Forbidden City and Summer Palace, where Forman was one of the very few Westerners allowed to visit and take photographs at the time.

And from India, the collection includes images of the Dalai Lama at a press conference just days after he was exiled from China. In South Africa, Forman documented the segregation and conditions that existed under apartheid, including protests against apartheid.

Of the over 17,000 images that will be uploaded in the coming months, there are many more highlights to look forward to. Over 3,300 images from India show gorgeous landmarks and historic sites; images of U.S. National Parks, especially in the Southwest United States, are especially stunning; get a taste of New York City in 1970, including the first Earth Day Parade that closed down Fifth Avenue; and thousands of topical images showing flora and fauna, local economies, and people from all over the world.