Maps provide information you can't always get from a text source. Maps symbolize a particular place at a particular time. It is important to keep in mind that maps are not a mirror of reality -- the creator of a map chooses what to include and how to depict a certain place within the conventions of the cartography of the times.
Help:Making Sense of Maps
Image: Detail of a map of Japan Town ca. 1925
The Map Collection has original copies of pre-1960 maps as well as a collection of historical atlases. For information see their description of Historic Maps.
The Map Library also has an extensive collection of aerial photographs of the region from 1944 to the present. The Aerial Photo Project Tool can help you identify photos within the Map Collection's holdings.