Map Reference Resources
Ask USGS (Earth Science Information Center)
This new web site, which is part of the “Ask-USGS” information delivery strategy, replaces the previous public Earth Science Information Center (ESIC) web pages. It provides data on the natural sciences.
Geographic Glossary and Tutorials
What is a “digital orthophoto quadrangle” and how does it differ from a “digital raster graphic?” Learn the language that geographers use for map making. On TerraserverUSA, from Encarta World Encyclopedia and the USGS.
Map Projections (USGS)
A map projection is used to portray all or part of the round Earth on a flat surface. This document gives the key properties, characteristics, and preferred uses of many historically important projections and of those frequently used by mapmakers today.
Map Projection Overview(Peter H. Dana - University of Texas at Austin)
These materials were developed by Peter H. Dana, Department of Geography, University of Texas at Austin, 1995. They may be used for study, research, and education in not-for-profit applications. If you link to or cite these materials, please credit the author, Peter H. Dana, The Geographer’s Craft Project, Department of Geography, The University of Colorado at Boulder. These materials may not be copied to or issued from another web server without the author’s express permission. Copyright ©1999 Peter H. Dana.
Map Scales (USGS) [HTML] [PDF]
USGS Fact Sheet 015-02 (February 2002) To be most useful, a map must show locations and distances accurately on a sheet of paper of convenient size. The proportion chosen for a particular map is its scale.
Topographic Map Symbols (USGS)
What is a topographic map? — Reading topographic maps — Topographic map information — Map symbols
The University of Texas at Austin. Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. Cartographic Reference Sources
Links to more reference sources (e.g., gazetteers, distance calculators, glossaries and guides).
USGS National Mapping Information
Query form for the United States and its territories retrieves detailed information (if any) about a specific place or point of interest (even libraries and parks) in the U.S. Includes: Elevation, Population, Description, History Notes, Variant Names, and USGS 7.5’ Map Names. Includes links to Census Bureau’s Tiger Mapping Service.
Replaces “Map Finder.” Start by “entering” the USGS Store. This site is helpful if you already know the name of the quadrangle or the USGS product number. If you don’t know the map name, use the “GNIS” search option, which links to the National Mapping Information “Query form for the United States and Its Territories” to get the quadrangle map name. Entries for each map include a thumbnail image (if available); coordinates; and dates of version, survey, revisions, and printing. County names are not included. You can order copies of maps online from this site.
“US Topo maps are a graphic synthesis of The National Map data files and are produced in the familiar 7.5-minute by 7.5- minute geographic format.”
Color Landform Atlas of the United States
For all 50 states, access Shaded relief maps, County maps, Black and white maps, PostScript maps, Satellite images, and an 1895 map.
Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century
A thematic atlas, produced by Matthew White, Erol’s Internet Service, Springfield, VA, USA. (The author makes his living as a librarian and has used various atlases, histories, and statistical sources to compile this online resource. Bibliography of works used. He states the following in his FAQ to this site: “never trust any information without double checking.”) First placed online October 18, 1998. “Always under construction.” Sections include: General trends (living conditions; government; war; population, religion); Specific places and events (Europe; America; China; Cold War; Imperialism; World Wars; Olympics); Keeping the turn of the century in perspective; General trends (socio-economic trends; agricultural workforce; infant mortality); Systems of government by decades and by type (monarchies; democracies; military juntas; single party states); Population; Urban growth; Wars (30 worst atrocities; 15 bloodiest wars; complete casualty statistics of wars and tyrants); Specific places and events; International relations; Disasters; Nobel prizes; Olympic Games; Index of wars and tyrants; and more.
Watersheds (Environmental Protection Agency)
This site includes links to other “watershed” resources.
Welcome to the Planets (TM) (Atlas of the Planets)
Produced by the California Institute of Technology. This is a collection of many of the best images from NASA’s planetary exploration program.
Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature
Produced by the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature, International Astronomical Union. Contains detailed information about all names of topographic and albedo features on planets and satellites (and some planetary ring and ring-gap systems) that the International Astronomical Union has named and approved from its founding in 1919 through its triennial meeting in 1997.
Geographic Names Information System
Produced by the USGS, National Mapping Information. Contains information about almost 2 million physical and cultural geographic features in the United States. The Federally recognized name of each feature described in the database is identified, and references are made to a feature’s location by State, county, and geographic coordinates. The GNIS is our Nation’s official repository of domestic geographic names information. Information about foreign geographic feature names can be obtained from the GEONet Names Server (link below).
Geographic Names Information System. Antarctica
Contains geographic names in Antarctica which are approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for use by the Federal Government.
GEOnet Names Server (Foreign geographic feature names)
Provides access to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) database of foreign geographic feature names. Coverage is worldwide, excluding the United States and Antarctica. Update on a bi-weekly schedule. The information in this database is based in part on copyrighted source material. Copyright restrictions continue to exist.
Updated: May 2019, Kimberly Wirth, Coordinator of Information Literacy/Research Librarian