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Maps & Air Photos: Finding Maps

Information about finding maps and aerial photographs in the UC Berkeley Library collections and beyond.

Types of Maps

Oakland East 1959 USGS 1:24,000 topographic quadrangle (crop)Topographic maps show the physical geography of an area, often including elevation of the terrain and depth of water. These maps can also include elements of the built environment. They are often published as map sets or series consisting of many individual sheets.

USGS (US Geological Survey)

The USGS produces topographic maps of the United States at a variety of scales, from the 7.5 minute quadrangles (1:24,000) to 1:250,000. We shelve the physical maps in our library under the call number G3700 svar .U6 [state] [quad name]. Use a paper or digital index to identify the quad for your location of interest. The next generation of topo quads (US Topo), for 2009 and later editions, are only available online.

Digital US Topos

International Topos

Topographic map sets can be particularly helpful when you cannot find an individual sheet map for a city or area of interest at the desired scale. We have particularly strong collections of international topographic maps produced by both local governments and the U.S. Army Map Service. When viewing the OskiCat record for a topographic map set:

  • Use paper and digital index maps to identify relevant sheets.
  • Click “View volumes” to see if we own the sheets that you need.

Common topographic map sets with international coverage include:

Topographic map reference materials include:

Geological map of a portion of the Berkeley HillsGeologic maps show the distribution of Earth's materials at the planet's surface. The Earth Sciences & Map Library has a large collection of geologic maps covering various parts of the world. Geologic maps have been acquired from the U.S. Geological Survey, various state geological surveys, and foreign agencies. 

Finding Geologic Maps in the Library

In the catalog: start with a general keyword search using the terms geology [place name] maps. For further refinement use the Advanced Keyword Search to search for the subject keywords [geology place name maps] (e.g., geology tokyo japan maps). You can find other geological keywords in the list of common subject keywords for maps.

Common geological map series include:

Digital Geologic Maps & Additional Resources

National Geologic Map Database - Discover and access geologic maps, stratigraphy, and GIS data for the United States.

Points of interest and auto routes diverging from the Hotel Oakland.Historical maps can be excellent sources for both information about how the world looked in the past and how people in the past viewed their world. The Earth Sciences & Map Library has reproductions, photocopies, and facsimiles for a number of historical maps in addition to cartobibliographies, atlases, and books about historical maps. The Bancroft Library holds the largest collection of historical and manuscript maps on campus. 

Finding Historical Maps in the Library

In the catalog: use the Advanced Keyword Search to search for keywords [place name maps] (e.g., france maps), then use the Year of Publication option to limit by date (e.g., After 1839 and Before 1891 for 1840-1890).

You might also try these subject keyword searches:

  • [place name early maps]
  • [place name manuscript maps]
  • [place name maps bibliography]

Search Melvyl for maps held at other libraries within UC, the Stanford University Libraries, and other libraries worldwide. Please contact the librarian for a consultation if you need maps from another UC/Stanford map library.

Digital Historical Maps

There are many online repositories for historical maps. Some great starting points include the following:

Scanned maps from the UC Berkeley collections:

Additional sources for scanned historic maps:

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Sonora, Tuolumne County, California, 1890, sheet 1Fire insurance maps are detailed city plans, usually at scales of 50 or 100 feet to an inch. They show individual building footprints, complete with construction details such as building material, number of stories, building use, and more. The maps were originally produced for insurance underwriters, but today are used by researchers in history, urban geography, architectural history, and other fields. They are commonly referred to as Sanborn maps because the Sanborn company was the largest national producer, covering the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

Find Sanborn Maps

The Earth Sciences & Map Library has a large collection of fire insurance maps for California, consisting mostly of online and microfilm sets. The Bancroft Library holds original fire insurance maps for some cities in California.


Microform - Use our microfilm collections to find other fire insurance maps. Important sets include:

To find other fire insurance maps in our collections, use the Advanced Keyword Search in OskiCat to search for the subject keywords [fire insurance place name maps] (e.g., fire insurance nevada maps).

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) holds microfilm for all Sanborn fire insurance maps in the Library of Congress (1867-1970), and eligible UC Berkeley faculty and students can borrow the microfilm through Interlibrary Borrowing Services. Please contact the librarian for a consultation if you need Sanborn microfilm from CRL. Note that the Digital Sanborn Maps largely duplicates the CRL microfilm collection.

Physical - Most libraries only hold fire insurance maps for their own state.

Interpreting Sanborns - Listed below are some resources that can help with the interpretation of Sanborn atlases

Nautical charts contain information on water depths, navigational aids, shipping channels, and restricted areas. They may also show details of coastal settlements, shorelines, reefs, and other physical features. These charts are collected for research purposes and are not intended to be used for navigation. Most charts in the Earth Sciences & Map Library are produced by the National Ocean Service (NOS), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and their predecessors.

Digital Charts


Find Nautical Charts in the Library

Nautical charts can be difficult to find, so please do not hesitate to ask us for assistance. Listed below are some common nautical chart sets in our library.

You can find other nautical charts in our collection by using the Advanced Keyword Search in OskiCat to search for subject keywords [nautical charts place name(e.g., nautical charts japan). You can find other ocean-related keywords in the list of common subject keywords for maps.

Additional nautical chart resources:

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Getting Started with Finding Maps

Keyword searching is the simplest way to start searching for maps in the Library catalog, Oskicat. Some helpful hints and tips:

  • Include the word “maps” in your keyword search or use the dropdown list to limit to Maps.
  • Include place names to find maps for a particular location: start specific (e.g., city) then broaden your region (e.g., county, state, country).
  • Choose other keywords from our list of common subject keywords for maps.
  • Use the sorted by date feature to browse your search results by date (only available once the search has been run).

Subject searches are the most direct method for retrieving maps and atlases from the Library's online catalog. In Advanced Keyword Search, search by Subject and limit the search by Material Type "printed maps." (The order of the subject keywords is not important).

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


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.

Interpreting a Map Catalog Record

When viewing the OskiCat record for a map set:

  • Pay attention to scale, dates, and publishers.
  • Use digital and paper index maps to identify relevant sheets.
  • Click “View volumes” to see if we own the sheets that you need.

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

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