Born in Hobart, Michael Denholm attended the University of Tasmania. During the early 1970s he completed a course in librarianship at the University of New South Wales and returned to Tasmania in 1975 to work at the State Library. During the late 1970s and 1980s he completed the two-volume Small Press Publishing in Australia, illustrating the contribution small presses have made to Australia's literary culture. In Tasmania, he pursued his interest in the arts and co-founded the Tasmanian Review in 1979. The magazine was renamed Island Magazine in 1981 and shortened to Island in 1990. Denholm was co-editor of Island Magazine until 1989 when he moved to Canberra as curator of the Australian Special Research Collection at the Australian Defence Force Academy. He remained in this position until 1994. Since the mid-1990s, Denholm's research interests have expanded into the field of art history. A proposed volume on the history of art in Tasmania was nearing completion in 2003.