Finding and Using Maps in your Research

Map image
1876 Map of Washington Territory, from NARA, with later annotations.  From Department of the interior, General Land Office.  (Click for larger image).

Maps provide  more than illustrations for your research.  Maps can constitute important primary sources.  The ability to find and read maps is an essential skill for historians.

The starting point for maps is the map case at UW Tacoma.  In it you will find atlases that offer general coverage of contemporary conditions in the world as well as several historical and statistical atlases.

UW Tacoma also has an almost complete set of USGS topographic maps for the state of Washington.  If you are new to their use, take a look at the key to all the symbols.

If your interest is an aspect of the history of the Pacific Northwest, then start with Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, 1999).  You can treat it as an index to maps in manuscript and map collections in the region.

Beyond UWT:

The Northwest Room at the Tacoma Public Library is a natural starting point for local map research.  Among their more important holdings are the Sanborne?? insurance maps, which give an enormous amount of detail regarding the built environment in the early twentieth century.  You will need to look closely at the key in order to fully interpret these maps.

The UW Map Library in Suzzallo is one of the largest collections of maps in the state.

DNR in Olympia has maps and aerial surveys.

WSHS has bird-eye views?

NARA in Sand Point

USGS in Tacoma.

You can buy USGS maps at REI .


Army Corps of Engineers?

If you are going to be making a map to convey data from your own research, take a look at Monmonier and Tufte.

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All materials © 1999-2001 Michael Kucher

This draft last updated 27 March  2000