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GIS (Geographic Information Systems) & Remote Sensing: Physical Maps

This guide covers resources and tools helpful for people interested in GIS & remote sensing.

For in-person or virtual reference assistance using the map and air photo collections, please schedule an appointment with a staff member or contact us at

I want to learn more about & find... 

snapshot of topographic map of Oakland, CA

Topographic Maps

Topographic maps show the physical geography of an area, including elevation and often elements of the built environment. 

Geologic Maps

Geologic maps portray the distribution of Earth's materials at the planet's surface.

Historical map of Oakland

Historical Maps

Historical maps were created in or depict specific historical periods.

Snippet of Sanborn fire insurance map

Sanborn & Other Fire Insurance Maps 

Fire insurance maps provide extremely detailed information about how cities and towns looked in the past.

Clip of nautical chart of Drake's Bay, CA

Nautical Charts

Nautical charts show water depths, shorelines, and coastal topography.

choropleth map of Middle East

GIS Data

GIS data can be used to create maps and perform spatial analysis.

Tips & Tricks for Finding Maps

Some helpful hints and tips for locating maps through UC Library Search:

  • Include place names to find maps for a particular location: start specific (e.g., city) then broaden your region (e.g., county, state, country)
  • Browse our list of common subject keywords for maps and add additional search filters for Subject
  • Use the sorted by date feature to browse your search results by date (only available once the search has been run)

Note the call number and location to locate the map in our collection.

UC Library Search call number & library location

Finding Maps by Call Number

The Earth Sciences & Map Library's collection is cataloged using the Library of Congress G-Classification call numbers, which arrange maps according to geographic areas. One way to retrieve map records from the Library's online catalogs is to search by "Call Number" phrase (e.g., G4363.S3 for Santa Barbara County, California).

NOTE: Call number searches will not retrieve all maps for a given geographic area. For example, a map of California with a city map of San Francisco on the back will be given a call number for the state (i.e. G4360 or G4361). Therefore, a call number search using the classification for San Francisco (G4364.S5) will not retrieve this map. Similarly, maps on microfiche/film, aerial photos, and maps in atlases cannot be found using "map" call number searches because they are assigned different call numbers from those assigned to flat maps.

Getting Started with Finding Maps

Use the Advanced Search to locate maps through  UC Library Search, the library catalog.

  • Enter a place name, topic, or other keyword 
  • Limit Material Type to Maps

UC Library Search advanced search keyword and limit to material type maps

Interpreting a Map Catalog Record

When viewing the UC Library Search record for a map or map set:

  • Pay attention to scale, dates, and publishers
  • Use digital and paper index maps to identify relevant sheets
  • Click on a library location to see if we own the sheets that you need


Note the call number and location to locate the map in our collection.

UC Library Search call number & library location