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Lawrence Sommers papers

Identifier: UA-17.315

Scope and Content

The Lawrence Sommers papers contain his work in the field of Geography from the early 1940s until his death in 2007. The earliest works are from his time spent as a Ph.D. candidate researching Norway and many of his later files include further in-depth research on Scandinavia. His collection also includes travel notebooks, photographs, and slides from his many travels abroad doing research in Europe, Africa, and South America. There is also a large collection of photographs from his time serving in World War II.

Themes in the slides include man/land relations and spatial distribution. The themes of the slides reflect Sommer's training in economic geography, the influence of geomorphology (landforms), the more descriptive approach of his era, and his teaching and research interests in Western Europe, especially Scandinavia, and Norway in particular. The majority of the slides in the collection are images of post-WWII western Europe, from 1948-early 1960s. The early research is dominated by images of fishing (the Norwegian fishing industry was the subject of his dissertation). Themes reflected in the Norway slides include house types, landforms, land use, fishing, industry, harbors, agriculture, cities, new towns, streetscapes, markets, post-World War II bomb damage, and tourist sites. (source Laurie Sommers)

Sommers' papers also hold correspondences to students, book publishers, and fellow geographers. Many of his files are communications with various geographical societies, which he was an active member of, planning new conferences or organizing the association. His personal vitae and work within Michigan State University, as a board member, provost, and professor, are also thoroughly documented.

In addition, there are many handwritten drafts for Sommers' various publications and papers. The papers themselves are also included in their entirety and in their various stages of completion.

There are also two video tapes of President John DiBiaggio's inauguration at MSU, which Sommers' helped organize, and a tape of his interview for the "Geographers on Film" series


  • Creation: 1944 - 2010


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Some folders are restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.


Lawrence Sommers spent his entire professional career working at Michigan State University. After graduating from a small high school in Wisconsin in the mid 1930s, he began attending the University of Wisconsin in 1937 and graduated four years later. He was working on his Master's degree at the same university when he was called to serve in World War II. He continued work on his degree through correspondence while he was in North Africa and completed his degree in 1947. He received his Ph.D. in 1950 from Northwestern University, where he met his wife Marjorie Smith. The final year of his doctoral program was spent in Norway which began his lifelong passion for research in Scandinavian geography.

Sommers was hired by Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) in 1949 as an instructor, and became a full professor in 1955. His work was imperative to the development of the Geography Department which he organized. He served as the chair of the department and also created the Graduate Program. He served as an advisor for students, chaired the Presidential Search Committee which elected John DiBiaggio, helped create the International Studies Center and programs, and worked in the Provosts' office. During this time he was also involved in numerous organizations, and developed subcommittees of his own.

For more details, his daughter, Laurie Kay Sommers, compiled a history of his accomplishments (Box 4315, Folder 9.)


14 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Gift of Laurie Sommers.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University.

Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Lawrence Sommers Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
E. Field
June 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US