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The map collection was started by Mrs. Ruby Miller in 1947. The bulk of the early collection consisted of Penn State Geography Department duplicates and a large number of maps from the U.S. Army Map Service Library. The former provided the basis for what is now one of the most complete USGS collections available. We hold a nearly complete set of current USGS topographic quadrangles for the 7.5' series editions, most of the superseded editions for the entire nation, and a large portion of the early 15' and 30' editions. The Army Map Service collection contains a wealth of large-scale topographic maps and town (city) plans at large scales from around the world, particularly from Europe. Most of the maps date from the first half of the 20th century and consist of items collected, captured, or published by the U.S. Army and similar intelligence services such as the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
In more recent years the collection has been built on receipts from the USGS, the U.S. Government Printing Office, NOAA (world nautical charts), and the NIMA/Geospatial Intelligence Agency through the U.S. Federal Depository Library Program, the former Library of Congress Geography and Map Division’s Summer Projects, and the Canadian Topographic Depository program. In addition, the map library has a selective housing agreement with the Pennsylvania State Library to house the state’s regional map depository collection. The library also purchases maps from private companies from around the globe, and receives gift or exchange maps from other libraries and sources in order to keep all areas of the collection as current, thorough, and diverse as possible. The collection now numbers about 300,000 sheets and is considered a top-15 research level collection in the country.
The Maps Library also houses 4,000 atlases, reference books, and gazetteers, and 15 globes globes. Along with a selection of current general atlases is a nice collection of thematic atlases, foreign atlases, cartography texts, journals, and cartobibliographies. All books and atlases are listed in the Libraries' online catalog. The library holds four aerial photograph collections of Pennsylvania (1963-1970 (Centre County), 1980-1987, 1987-1991, and 1992-1996.
The Maps Cataloging Team in the University Libraries is steadily making progress towards having the entire maps collection cataloged, having begun the process in 1995. That is to say descriptions of each title, in the form of records, are in the online catalog so that patrons can discover what we own. At this time, nearly every map of locations outside of the United States has been cataloged. We are working on cataloging our collection of general and thematic maps of the states in the United States, moving east to west. Current work is being done on maps of the eastern seaboard. We hope to keep moving swiftly and plan to (figuratively) cross the Mississippi in the next two years. Notably, after a five year project, inJuly 2016 we finished cataloging all Pennsylvania maps throughout the collection. Our Pennsylvania map collection alone includes 14,000+ map sheets for nearly 8,700 titles plus 30,400 Sanborn Fire Insurance map sheets, 8,400 FEMA Flood Insurance Rate map sheets, 9,600 Pennsylvania topo quads and 2,700 aerial photographs.
With GIS services moving into the Maps Library, we have started consulting with patrons on GIS projects, as well as offering GIS-related internship opportunities for students.
If you have questions about our collections, projects, or progress in cataloging our collections, please contact us.