Thirty-four years after the American Geographical Society Library received the Harrison Forman Collection, work to make the images in the collection accessible online was completed in May 2021. Donated by his wife Sandra Carlyle Forman in 1987, the photographic collection consists of print photographs, nitrate and safety negatives, 35 mm color slides, Ektachrome color slides, and motion picture films.
Harrison Forman (1904-1978) was a prominent photojournalist, explorer, author, and fellow of the American Geographical Society. As a foreign correspondent, Forman’s images and articles appeared in the New York Times, Times of London, Life, Look, Collier’s, Harpers, and Reader’s Digest.
He was a native of Wisconsin and UW alumnus with a degree in Oriental Philosophy. Forman’s collection was a tremendous gift to the AGSL and subsequently became one of the Library’s most popular and most utilized of AGSL’s photography collections among researchers around the world.
This historically and geographically significant collection covers Forman’s travels from the late 1920s to the mid-1970s. Forman travelled the world with the eye of an anthropologist. He was fascinated by the lives, culture, economies, governments and infrastructure of each place he visited.
Known in his heyday as the “Modern Day Marco Polo,” Forman was often the first Westerner to have access to the people and places he visited and seemed to always be in the right place at the right time, witnessing significant moments in history and documenting them with his photography.
The content of the Forman Collection is a gold mine of historical information and beautiful photography. Forman’s images can be accessed online in the following collections on the UWM Digital Collections website:
Afghanistan: Images from the Harrison Forman Collection documents the life and culture of Afghanistan in the 1950s and 1960s.
Transportation Around the World focuses on the ways people all over the world get from point A to point B.
Cities Around the World highlights the architecture, city life, people, transportation, neighborhoods, commercial streets, and business districts of metropolitan areas.
Tibet from the AGSL Collection includes Forman’s images he took while visiting Tibet in the 1930s – one of the few Westerners to visit the region at the time.
Nazi Invasion of Poland documents the beginning of WWII through images Forman took during the Blitzkrieg in Poland.
Travel Diaries and Scrapbooks of Harrison Forman 1932 – 1973 presents 62 of Forman’s diaries he kept while in the field, spanning his professional career.
For further information about the collection, please contact Susan Peschel, Visual Resources Librarian, American Geographical Society Library.