Mapping Nature is co-directed by Dr. James Akerman (Curator of Maps and Director of the Smith Center for the History of Cartography, The Newberry Library) and Dr. Kathleen Brosnan (Travis Chair of Modern History, University of Oklahoma).

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Dr. James Akerman is Director of the Newberry’s Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography and Curator of Maps at the Newberry Library. Akerman is the author of many studies of the social and political aspects of mapping, transportation and travel cartography, and the history of atlases. He has edited five peer-reviewed collections of essays, the most recent of which, Decolonizing the Map (University of Chicago Press), was published in 2017. He has directed thirteen summer seminars and institutes on a variety of map-centered topics for faculty and schoolteachers between 1995 and 2016. He has curated or co-curated several exhibitions, most recently, Maps: Finding Our Place in the World (with Robert W. Karrow, Jr.), mounted at The Field Museum (Chicago) and the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore), in 2007-08. Since 1998, he has led numerous workshops and seminars on mapping and the humanities for local schoolteachers at the Newberry. He has directed or co-directed three major digital humanities projects, all of them supported in part by the NEH: Historic Maps in K-12 Classrooms; Make Big Plans: Daniel Burnham’s Vision of an American Metropolis; and Mapping Movement in American History and Culture.

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Dr. Kathleen A. Brosnan is the Travis Chair of Modern American History at the University of Oklahoma and past president of the American Society for Environmental History. She is the author of numerous articles and the book, Uniting Mountain and Plain: Cities, Law, and Environmental Change along the Front Range (2002). Brosnan also edited the award-winning Encyclopedia of American Environmental History (2010), and co-edited City Dreams, Country Schemes (2011); Energy Capitals (2014); and, with James R. Akerman, Mapping Nature Across the Americas (forthcoming 2020). Two other co-edited volumes, City of Lake and Prairie: Chicago’s Environmental History and The Greater Plains: Rethinking a Region’s Environmental Histories, are forthcoming. In 2014, Brosnan and Akerman co-directed, Mapping Nature Across the Americas, a NEH summer institute for university and college professors at the Newberry Library. Among her work on films and exhibits, she was project director for an online exhibit, To Bear Fruit for Our Race: A History of African American Physicians in Houston, launched in 2008 and used by more than 300 middle schools and high schools. Brosnan is currently developing an inquiry-based curriculum model on civil rights in Oklahoma with her local school district.

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Kathryn Person has been teaching high school since 2010. She currently teaches AP Human Geography and AP Microeconomics at Walter Payton College Prep, with prior teaching experience at Karinthy Frigyes Gimnasium (Budapest, Hungary), and George Washington High School (Chicago’s East Side). Kathryn studied economics at Indiana University (B.A.) and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (M.Sc.). She worked in global tax and human resources consulting before completing her MAT in History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She met her husband in a graduate class about maps. Her relationship with the Newberry developed through participation in NEH’s 2018 summer seminar Reading Material Maps in the Digital Age. When she’s not in the classroom or preparing for it, she enjoys playing with her two kids ages 8 and 5, hanging out with her husband Andy (also a high school teacher), enjoying Chicago on foot or by bike, cooking, gardening, or planning a post-COVID trip.


Patrick Morris is Map Cataloging Librarian at the Newberry Library.  He is responsible for map reference and cataloging work. Pat holds an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Illinois, and a master’s degree in library science from Dominican University.

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Madeline Crispell is the Program Coordinator for the Smith Center. She holds an MA in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center, where she focused on material culture and immigration history. She is also the Program Coordinator for Fellowships at the Newberry Library.