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Research Guides

Maps & Cartographic Information: Historic Maps

Search tips for finding maps, atlases, aerial photos, GIS, and other cartographic materials.

Print & Physical Resources


Catalog Search Tips: Historic Maps

  1. Use a KEYWORDS search.
  2. Limit the Year fields to the range you are looking for.
    There are two caveats about using Year fields:
    • The year represents the year that a particular map was published. If the map is a reproduction of an older map, the date will be when the new map was published, not when the original was created.
    • The Year fields are not always reliable. They do not accurately sort any date which is uncertain (a date with a question mark: 1970?, a dash: 197-, or both: 197-?).
    If you cannot find what you are looking for, leave the Year fields blank and try again.
  3. Many historic maps are in Special Collections and other areas, not just in the Map Collection. Therefore, be sure to leave the Location field blank.
  4. In the text box, type in your geographic area and a subject keyword if you are looking for something specific and "maps."
    Ex. Year: 1800 1899
    Washington State AND railroads AND maps

The Historic Map Cases are not accessible to the public. You must ask staff to bring you maps in your area of interest.

Related Terms & Definitions

A map is considered historic if:

  • It was published before 1960;
  • It is a previous (superceded) edition of a USGS Washington State 7.5 minute, 15 minute, or 30 minute topographic map; OR
  • It is in poor condition or in need of preservation.

Historic Maps & The Collection

The Map Collection has an extensive collection of topographic maps of Washington state. Although we do not actively collect older maps, we do make occasional exceptions for good older maps of Washington state.

Historic maps can be found at the UW in the Map Collection and also in Special Collections.

Historic topos and other historic maps cannot be checked out. To obtain copies, see Options for Copying Maps.

UW Special Collections has very rare or original historic maps.