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IU makes historic maps available to public

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Staff Report

Indiana University is now making historic maps of more than 300 locations in the state available to the public.

The Sanborn Company created the maps starting in 1867 for assessing fire insurance liability for buildings in U.S. cities. IU officials say they are "considered a treasure trove of American history sought after by genealogists, urban planners, sociologists and a gamut of other researchers."

"Indiana's historic Sanborn Maps provide an enormous amount of information regarding the growth of our cities and towns," said Anna Radue, an IU database and geographic information systems specialist, in a statement.

"The maps include the outlines of buildings, the location of windows and doors, street names and property boundaries, and even the building materials used for framing, flooring and roofing materials," said Radue, who is also president of the Indiana Geographic Information Council.

"Genealogists, planners, demographers and the general public will find these maps invaluable for visualizing our past urban areas and understanding our present."

The Sanborn Company designated Indiana University's Herman B Wells Library Map Collections as the repository for the original Indiana paper maps which the company produced between 1883 and 1966. A recent joint project between IU and Historical Information Gatherers Inc. now provides digital color versions of the maps to the Indiana Spatial Data Portal.

A 2011 grant from IndianaView funded the digital archiving of the 10,020 public-domain maps and 1,497 copyright-restricted maps that represent 305 different Indiana locations. The ISDP provides access to more than 20 terabytes of Indiana geospatial data and most datasets are available to the public for download with no use restrictions.

After 1910, Sanborn used what IU Libraries' Lou Malcomb called "paste-overs" to record changes in the maps.

"So these are quite fragile but may be viewed at the Herman B Wells Library," Malcomb said. "And more information about the pre- and post-1924 maps may be obtained by contacting the IUB Map Collection."

The Sanborn maps announcement comes in advance of GIS Day at Indiana University, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at Herman B Wells Library.

The event is open to the public and will include information booths, geocaching activities and a 4 p.m. keynote address by Katy Börner, an IU information science professor. Guests will also be able to speak with IU Libraries staff about the Sanborn maps.

The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

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