Navigate Your Research with Resources from the Map Collection

By Megan M. Thu, July 26, 2018

The Map Collection, a Special Collection at the Parkway Central Library, houses numerous resources for all types of research. The Map Collection has pictorial maps to inspire artists and art lovers, topographic and geologic maps for the earth scientists, and historical maps for those interested in the past. However, researching Philadelphia’s past is not as straightforward as one might think. Street names have changed. House numbering, ward numbering, and even the boundaries of the city have changed! For this reason, the Map Collection has recently published a guide to the Collection and its resources, which is now available at www.freelibrary.org/maps

This new webpage highlights some of the Collection’s most useful materials (fire insurance maps, industrial site surveys, and ward atlases), and provides links to resources and digital map collections. In addition, it now provides digitized copies of index maps as well as lists of Collection holdings that contain links to digitized volumes.

For those unfamiliar with index maps, they are the starting point for most types of Philadelphia map research, as they help you determine ward numbers (which can change from one year to another) and volume numbers (which vary depending on the publisher). The lists of Collection holdings are useful because they tell you the years and volumes that we have available as well as which maps are available online through the Library. 

Whether you are doing research on a house, historic buildings, or just exploring maps for fun, the Map Collection at the Free Library offers a variety of useful resources!

To view items from the Map Collection, make an appointment via email at erefmap@freelibrary.org, or call 215-686-5397. Please note that this collection is non-circulating.

Globes from the Map Collection
Globes from the Map Collection
Detail from a 1905 Hexamer & Son fire insurance map (Volume 6, Plate 82)
Detail from a 1905 Hexamer & Son fire insurance map (Volume 6, Plate 82)
The Map Collection offers hundreds of reference books in the fields of: cartography, cartobibliography, geography, and place names.
The Map Collection offers hundreds of reference books in the fields of: cartography, cartobibliography, geography, and place names.

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