“The map once constructed should be enduring….” — John W. Powell, USGS Director 1881-1894

West Washington, DC; 1:62,500, 15'x15', 1885

“For more than 130 years, the USGS topographic mapping program has accurately portrayed the complex geography of our Nation.”  (HQSP website)

The U.S. Geological Survey Historical Quadrangle Scanning Project (HQSP)  has announced a massive release of historical topographical maps, including all editions and all scales of more than 200,000 historic  topographic maps of the United States dating from 1884-2006.  Files are high resolution (600 DPI) scanned images of all maps from the USGS legacy collection.

The historical topographic map collection includes all States and U.S. territories mapped by the USGS. The HQSP creates a master catalog and digital archive for all topographic maps and provides easy access to the public to download this historical data to accompany topographic maps that are no longer available for distribution as lithographic prints.

Historical maps are available at no cost in GeoPDF format from the USGS Store. These maps are georeferenced and can be used in conjunction with the new USGS digital topographic map, the US Topo.  (If you, like me, don’t immediately recognize the US Topo project, it’s definitely worth a look!  From their website description:  “US Topo is the next generation of digital topographic maps from the U.S. Geological Survey.  Arranged in the traditional 7.5-minute quadrangle format, digital US Topo maps are designed to look and feel like the traditional paper topographic maps for which the USGS is so well known. At the same time, US Topo maps provide modern technical advantages … ” — i.e., you can turn geographic data layers on and off as needed, or you can zoom in and out to highlight specific features or see a broader area).

Future plans include providing the historical maps in GeoPDF andGeoTIFF formats through The National Map in the fall of 2011. The GeoTIFFs can be imported into a Geographic Information System and overlain with other data sources.

Visit the USGS Historical Quadrangle Scanning Project
USGS Press Release: “Historical Maps Released”

Thanks to Louise Deis, Princeton University Geosciences Librarian, for forwarding this post from Tara Calishain’s blog Research Buzz (July 14, 2011)

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