One of Indiana’s Largest Map Collections Is Put Online

The collection contains maps dating as far back as the 1870s.

One of the largest map collections in Indiana, showing many of the state’s cities as far back as the mid-19th century, has been digitized and is being posted online by Indiana University.

Tucked into rows of bookshelves and filing cabinets at Herman B. Wells Library is one of the largest map collections in Indiana. Maps dating as far back as the 1870s find their resting place here, nestled into drawers and old binders where anyone who finds themselves at the library can access them. Now, after months of digital screening of thousands of pages, these maps can also be found online.

“The maps are mainly used by historic preservationists, local historians, but also by environmental engineers because they want to come in and find out what property was owned and what it was used for,” says Lou Malcomb, the library’s Head of Government Information and Kent Cooper Services.

She says previously the maps have been available online only in black and white. The new digital maps, though, are available in color, which Malcomb says plays an important part in their meaning.

“Color really means something, like if it’s a pink building it means that it’s a brick building,” she says. “If it’s blue it’s concrete. So having the color ones digitized and available is really important for a lot of research purposes.”

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps collection documents more than 300 Indiana cities from the years 1883 to 1966, and researchers today can use these maps to study the changes and foundations of modern cities. Malcomb hopes to have all the maps linked to the library’s website by early next year.

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