Washingtoniana Map Collection
The Washingtoniana Map Collection consists of more than 8,000 print, microfilm and microfiche maps from 1612 to the present. These include real estate atlases, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and many others. The collection covers a variety of topics with maps created by many sources for many different purposes. The collection focuses on the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Formerly housed in the Washingtoniana Room, the bulk of the map collection is in storage during the three-year modernization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Duplicate plat maps, maps on microfilm, and maps on microfiche will be available in the Washingtoniana interim location at the Newseum, opening Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Maps in storage may be accessed or digitized on-demand in special cases where unique items are not available elsewhere or online. Please see contact information below for details.
Dig DC. Additional maps are currently being digitized and will appear in the Dig DC online collections as the digital surrogates are made and cataloged. Maps are selected for digitization based on patron use, condition, research value and existing online availability.
The digitized maps are available in two separate online collections:
- The Maps: Real Estate Plat Books collection contains real estate atlases from 1874 to 1896 published by Faehtz & Pratt and G.M. Hopkins & Co.
- The Maps: City & Regional collection includes individual printed maps from the 1760s to the 1970s, covering a variety of neighborhoods, subjects, and types of maps.
Historic real estate atlases, or "plat" maps, show the footprints of each building extant in the city at the time the atlas was published. Washingtoniana holdings include atlases published by Hopkins (1877-1890s) and Baist (1903-67). Some early Baist atlases (1903-1919) have been digitized by DC Public Library or the Library of Congress and are available online. Atlases are arranged by volume for different parts of the city.
Plat maps convey basic information about a property such as lot dimensions, building dimensions and material. These maps also can help you note old lot numbers, old street names, and old subdivision names. Studying maps over time gives a sense of the gradual development of the neighborhood surrounding your home, and shows what existed before your home was built. You can also look for changes to the shape of the footprint to investigate alterations made to the building.
An incomplete inventory list is available online. Maps on this list are currently stored off-site during the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization. Most unique maps in the collection have been digitized and are available on Dig DC. Our staff can help you locate maps online and at other local repositories. Rare instances where maps are unavailable elsewhere will be accommodated on a case by case basis and may be digitized on-demand when possible. Please contact the map librarian for further details.
Sanborn Fire Insurance maps are available on microfilm for the years 1888-1927. Many Baist and other real estate maps are also accessible on microfilm in the Carnegie Library. Maps on microfilm may be scanned to a flash drive or emailed. A complete list of maps on microfilm is available in Washingtoniana.
- DCRA SurDocs (contains field surveys and historic surveyor plats)
- Library of Congress Maps
- David Rumsey Map Collection
- Historic Map Works
For official survey maps, please contact the DC Office of the Surveyor at 202-442-4400, located at 1100 4th St SW.
Internship opportunities in this collection are available to library and information science (MLS/MLIS) graduate students. Please see the DC Public Library internships page for details.
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