A New Way to Find Old Maps

by | Jul 7, 2015

How did your neighborhood look in the 1900s?  Now there's an easier way to find out. The USGS National Map program, working with the National Geologic Map Database(NGMDB) project, has launched a new version of the beta application, topoView for exploring, viewing,  and downloading the more than 178,000 USGS digitized legacy topographic maps from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection (HTMC). These scanned quadrangle maps, georeferenced at various scales, dating from the late 1880's to 2010. For more information on the effort to capture the complete map collection, see the Historical Topo Map Collection web site.

Getting Started is Easy

This innovative web interface has been designed and released to the public in order to evaluate new ways of exploring the map collection. With topoView, you can search and discover maps starting with a map of the United States.  A comprehensive list of tips and hints on how to get the most from this interface are in the Help Pages and the YouTube Quick Start Video

Finding a Map

Here's an example of how to find a map ” by entering some locality information into the search box on the right side of the screen, such as a street address, geographic feature, or lat/long coordinate pair, the application will zoom to the requested location.

Selecting Your Map

Once you click on your desired area, a small map information box will appear in the lower left part of the viewer. Along with a thumbnail view of a sample map, features in this box allow you to select the download format, get a larger version of the preview map by clicking on it, and see how many different historical maps are available for that area. From there, a small information box will appear in the lower left side, along with a key of the map scales available to the lower right.

Map Scales

Topographic maps are made in several levels of detail, or scale.  You can select the map scales you'd like to browse, by using the small map scales box on the right side of interface.  To see every available map, select show all and use the color as a guide to each map scale.

Maps Through Time

Another unique addition to topoView is the timeline slider at the top of the application. This feature allows you to or chose a time period by dragging one or both sliders.  The slider also enables you to see the progress of mapping across a desired area or the entire US through time.

How Many Maps?

When you click on a map, the small map information window that appears in the lower left corner also indicates how many maps are available for that selected area. By clicking on the map counter number, you can see a map records table that lists all of the available maps, map names, dates, and other details. The record results can also be sorted or filtered to help you browse the list as you wish.


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