Finding Maps, Atlases, Aerial Photographs and GIS Data
Locating Unfamiliar Place Names
If you need to locate an unfamiliar place name, you will find a wide range of gazetteers and atlases containing indexes of place names in the T.R. Smith Map Collection. Staff at the Map Collection service desk will be happy to recommend the best place-name index for your purposes. They can also help you to locate the place on a map.
Some atlases are also available for viewing at the Spencer Research Library. Alternatively, there are gazetteers for both American and foreign place names at the U.S. Geological Survey's website.
Finding Paper Sheet Maps
We recommend that you start with an online search through the online catalog, but that you also visit or contact the T.R. Smith Map Collection to find out about maps not yet listed in the catalog. Individual maps and map series listed in the online catalog include most of our recent maps published by U.S. government agencies, and a smaller percentage of our holdings of maps from other American and foreign sources.
When searching the online catalog for maps, we recommend that you use a guided keyword builder and enter as search terms. For example, "geographical place name + 'map' (or 'maps') + keyword or subject heading (if relevant)." Experimenting with different terms and combinations may improve your results.
After finding a map in the online catalog, you can visit the T.R. Smith Map Collection to look at the map. If you don't find the map you need in the online catalog, don't give up! Please visit or contact the T.R. Smith Map Collection and ask us for help!
The T.R. Smith Map Collection call number system organizes sheet maps systematically by geographical place name, subject matter, scale and date, so direct browsing is also very efficient. We can provide access to drawers in our map cases where you can browse through folders of relevant maps.
If appropriate to your search, we may also direct you to maps filed by U.S. Government Documents SUDOC number (such as aeronautical charts and CIA maps), to U.S. Serials Set maps (maps from U.S. Congressional reports), or to folded maps filed by geographical place name (such as road and tourist maps and maps of U.S. National Parks and Forests).
Additionally, there are maps in the Spencer Research Library. The Kansas Collection holds 19th-century and early 20th-century maps relating to Kansas ranging from city maps to maps of the state and the surrounding region. The Kansas Collection has also digitized its pre-1922 Kansas Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. In Special Collections there are early maps in the Orbis Collection and in other collections. The University Archives has a collection of maps and building plans of the KU campus that complement the KU campus maps in the T.R. Smith Map Collection.
Perhaps you want to find an atlas about a particular geographical area or subject. You may also find a useful map in an atlas if none of our sheet maps meet your needs. The index of place-names in an atlas will also help in locating unfamiliar place names.
Searching the online catalog is the best way to find atlases held the KU Libraries. Almost all atlases appear in the online catalog, but they are shelved in different libraries across campus according to their Library of Congress call numbers. When searching the KU Libraries online catalog for atlases, we recommend that you use a guided keyword builder and enter as search terms. For example, "geographical place name + 'map' (or 'maps') + keyword or subject heading (if relevant)." Experimenting with different terms and combinations may improve your results.
If you want a general atlas, you are most likely to find it shelved in the T.R. Smith Map Collection. The collection contains the greatest concentration of atlases in the KU Libraries, most of which can be checked out by patrons. They are shelved at the east end of the maps area according to their size. The extra-large "oversize" atlases are shelved flat, as are the large "folio" atlases, while the medium-large "folio" atlases and regular atlases are shelved upright.
We also have a small reference section of frequently used non-circulating atlases. Direct shelf browsing of these sequences of atlases is feasible, but an online catalog search is always a recommended starting point.
The results of your online search may take you to other KU Libraries. There you will find atlases on different subjects shelved in the stacks, along with books on related subjects that have similar Library of Congress call numbers. Some atlases are also available for viewing at the Spencer Research Library.
If you are interested in seeing atlases from the 18th century and earlier, you will find most of Spencer Research Library's holdings listed in the online catalog. However, visiting, or contacting, Spencer Research Library is also recommended to check for early maps and atlases with limited catalog information.
The aerial photograph collection centers primarily on Kansas coverage but also small selected holdings for other geographical areas. Sets of air photographs of Douglas County (including Lawrence) dating from 1937, 1941, 1954, 1966, 1976, and 1986 are accessible online. These same images are also available as geo-referenced countywide images for each year at the Kansas Data Access & Support Center (KS GIS clearinghouse). Look under the "Imagery and Raster" category for "Douglas County Historical Rectified Aerial Photos."
We also have nearly comprehensive coverage of the entire state of Kansas from the 1986 reappraisal survey. This coverage is arranged by county on rolls of negative aerial photographic film. Index maps and lists of our holdings make it easy to locate the right roll of film, although finding images on the rolls requires scrolling through the film on a viewing table. Patrons usually find it more convenient to order positive prints made from our negative film by a licensed vendor (inquire at the Map Collection service desk for the list of vendors). In addition, we have other aerial photographic coverage for some Kansas counties in a mixture of formats (paper prints and film negatives and positives). Index maps in the T.R. Smith Map Collection are also the best way to access these aerial photographs.
A search of the online catalog which includes the search phrase 'aerial photograph' or 'aerial photographs' will turn up collective entries for some but not all of our holdings. The search term 'photomap' will also bring up some maps that incorporate aerial imagery. However, the best way to find out whether we hold coverage of the right date for your geographical area of interest is to visit or contact the T.R. Smith Map Collection service desk.