By Allison Campbell-Jensen
“It’s impossible to think geographically without maps,” said the late Regents Professor John Borchert in the first episode of a 10-program series on the “Geography of Minnesota.”
A professor of geography who passed away March 30, 2001, Borchert was a member of the University of Minnesota geography faculty from 1949 to 1989. Even after his retirement, he remained an active and vital presence in our campus, state, and national geography community.
The collection named for him on his official retirement from the University of Minnesota faculty — the John R. Borchert Map Library, located below ground in Wilson Library — lives and thrives and continues to expand.
Ryan Mattke, Head of the John R. Borchert Map Library, Map & Information Librarian, co-Director of the Mapping Prejudice Project, and Program Lead for the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geospatial Information Network, recently provided figures about the collection of maps, plots, charts, and more.
The Map Library cataloged collections consist of over 600,000 items:
- 245,000 sheet maps
- 360,000 aerial photographs
- 16,000 books, atlases, and periodical volumes
In addition, there are a number of uncataloged collections of items with varying levels of patron access:
- Approximately 600,000 35mm aerial photograph slides
- 310 boxes of unprocessed aerial photographs (approximately 310,000 items)
- Bordner Collection (donated in February 2020) ‒ approximately 145,000 aerial photograph negatives and 100,000 photo proofs
- Sheet maps (backlog, faculty donations, etc.) ‒ approximately 5,000 items
While this amazing collection of maps — flat, bound, and digital — are part of the legacy of this excellent professor and public servant, Borchert may have been more proud of the legions of students whom he taught during his 40 years in the Geography Department.
Late in his career, he wrote: “Many were part of the stream of talent that this northern heartland has contributed for generations to the national and global pool. … They were curious about their environment and wanted to help themselves and others to make more sensible decisions and follow up with more fruitful actions. Their curiosity translated into a commitment to research. Their drive to improve human decisions and actions translated into a commitment to teach.”
These former students now populate the ranks of many local, state and federal agencies, colleges and university faculties, and private companies across the country and around the world.
You may want to learn more about the very productive life of John R. Borchert — or stop by the Borchert Map Library during business hours and pick up a free map from the pile of extras on offer. If you did, Prof. Borchert would be pleased.
Consultations also are available by appointment via email.