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Maps: Topographic Maps

A guide to library research tools for maps, mapping and Geographic Information Systems.

Topographic Maps

Finding Topographic Maps

Most maps circulate for one week with one renewal - check at the circulation desk for any restrictions. MIT users may suggest map purchases on the Suggested Purchase Form.

U.S. Topographic Maps

Topographic maps are received in paper format on deposit from the U.S. Geological Survey. The collection includes:

  • 7.5' quadrangles (1:24,000 scale series)
  • some 15' quadrangles
  • some orthophoto maps and orthophoto quads
  • miscellaneous topographic sheets of various scales


Many topographic maps can also be found in electronic format:

Foreign Topographical Maps

The foreign topographical map collection is composed primarily of maps from the Army Map Service (AMS) and successor agencies. There are also some miscellaneous city plans and thematic maps.

  • Maps are arranged by series number. For example, under G3200 (WORLD) there are several series, 1105, 1301, etc.
  • Arrangement within the series varies; most maps are arranged by sheet number.
    - To find the sheet number, see American Map Service (DMA) indexes in binders on the Map Reference shelves.
    - Each index describes the series, characteristics of the maps, how much of the area has been mapped, and what is available.
    - Most index sheets have a list of available maps on the verso; the list shows the Map Room's holdings.
    - The index sheet title is annotated with the Library of Congress number by which the series is filed.


Most MIT libraries collect world atlases relevant to their subject areas.

  • Some are located in the reference atlas cases, others are in the Map Room.
  • Circulating atlases are in the oversized collection in the basement.
  • Please search our collection for individual titles.

The Map Room also houses some gazetteers from the U.S. Army Map Service (later called the Defense Mapping Agency or DMA). These are located on the Map Reference Shelves next to the cases outside the Map Room.