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CPLN 528/URBS 428 Undergraduate Urban Research Colloquium: Maps

Penn Libraries has maps in many formats and may be accessed through a number of different channels. All print map collections can be searched for in Franklin as can most of our online content.  

  •  Do an advanced search by format type for "maps"
  •  Search by subject, typing the place name and then maps:
          ex: United States maps, Pennsylvania maps, Philadelphia maps
  • Other subject terms to try:
         map collections, maps and mapping, maps, cartography
  • Maps are often included as plates in books
  • For atlases, use a combined keyword search: subject [place name] and keyword [atlas*]

Sanborn Maps

Founded in 1867 by D. A. Sanborn, the Sanborn Map Company was the primary American publisher of fire insurance maps for nearly 100 years. Sanborn maps were created to assist fire insurance companies as they assessed the risk associated with insuring a particular property. They include information such as the outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers.

How do I read a Sanborn Map? Consult the legend for each map. It can usually be found on the first or second page and varies year to year. Some example legends can be found here:

Digital Maps - US Resources

Digital Maps - International

  • World Digital Library The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.
  • CIA Maps Maps from the CIA of countries around the world.
  • Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection A variety of online maps from around the world.
  • British Library The online collection includes fire insurance maps and historical maps from all over Britain.
  • David Rumsey Map Collections The collection focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North American and South American maps. Historic maps of the World, Europe, Asia, and Africa are also represented.
  • ezilon Maps of the World Provides geographical data and statistics on countries of the world.
  • GeoRef A comprehensive database to geoscience literature worldwide.​
  • Mappery  A diverse collection of maps contributed by map lovers worldwide.
  • Old Maps Online A broad collection of historical maps from around the world.
  • ReliefWeb  Select a country to find maps, articles, and data about recent disasters in that area.
  • The Gulf Project The site includes maps that are ethnographic and cultural, economic, historical, military, and administrative for the Persian Gulf.