Maps Research Guide

Welcome to the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives Maps Research Guide. This is a select list of freely-available resources for students, teachers, and researchers to learn about maps. Contact Us with suggestions for additional resources or with questions. 

Smithsonian Resources

  • Smithsonian Map Collections Database: (SI staff) With over 40,000 digitized maps from the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and Smithsonian Libraries' collections, this database is searchable by title, keyword, subject, coordinates, or through an interactive map. To learn more about the database, view this short video (SI staff). For internal SI staff use only. [Teleworkers: Go to and copy in the box located in the upper left corner.]
  • Smithsonian Collections Search Center: Additional maps held by many Smithsonian units can be found in Smithsonian Collections Search, by selecting “Maps” under “Type” either when browsing Collections or on your search results page.
  • Maps of Panama Research Guide / Guía de Mapas: Information about the map collection in the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Library, digitized maps in the Smithsonian collections available online, and other valuable map information. 
  • Natural History Research Guide: Smithsonian Libraries and Archives' general research guide for Natural History featuring links to all Smithsonian Natural History library branches and related research guides within the Smithsonian.
  • Databases for Science Research: List of science research databases from the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives. Many of the databases are free to access, but others require users to be onsite at a Smithsonian library or have Smithsonian network access.

Top Resources

  • David Rumsey Map Collection: Digitized collection of over 86,000 maps from the David Rumsey map collection. The site includes the ability to overlay historic maps on modern ones and to create shareable annotated maps.
  • Library of Congress Map Collections: Directory to the online map collections from the Library of Congress. Includes Civil War maps, National Park maps, and 19th Century railroad maps among many others.
  • The National Map: Directory of map collections from the United State Geological Survey featuring topographic maps, both historic and current, and hydrography data.
  • Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection: Digitized collection of maps from the University of Texas, Austin featuring modern and historical maps from all over the world, as well a numerous links to other map related resources.
  • The British Library Maps Collections: Guide to the map collections housed at the British Library, many of which have some portion available digitally.
  • Online Guide to U.S. Map Collections: Crowd-sourced directory of U. S. map collections. Searchable map interface so that collections can be located by their geographic location.

Other Map Resources

  • A Land Beyond the Stars: Website from Museo Galileo and the Library of Congress exploring Universalis Cosmographia, Martin Waldseemüller's 1507 map of the world. The first map featuring the name America, used in honor of Amerigo Vespucci.
  • Maps in American Culture-From Colonialism to Tourism: Online exhibition from the Digital Public Library of America focused on the impact of maps in U.S. history.
  • Crace Collection of Maps of London: Collection from the British Library of 1,200 maps showing the development of the city of London from 1570 to 1860.
  • Harvard Map Collection: Collection of maps from the Harvard Library featuring maps from as far back as 1493 and GIS and geospatial data.
  • Mapping History: Collection of interactive maps illustrating historical events and dynamics from around the world cartographically.
  • National Geographic Online Map Archive: View 100+ years of hi-resolution National Geographic maps of the world's continents, regions, and countries.
  • The Gulf/2000 Project Maps: Collection of cultural, historical, military, and political maps of the Gulf states created by Dr. Michael Izady for the Atlas of the Islamic World and Vicinity.
  • CIA Maps: Collection of maps of countries from around the world made available through the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook.
  • United States -- National Map Viewer: This interactive system allows viewing and download of U.S. Topographic products and eight National Map datasets. 
  • BYU Map Collections: Collection of historic maps, gazetteers, and atlases from from around the world stored on The Internet Archive by Brighman Young University. 


Last Updated June 23, 2021