Local History Maps
in Area Institutions


Maps useful for studying local history can be found in a variety of local institutions:

  • Western Reserve Historical Society Library holds the largest and most useful collection of historic maps pertaining to greater Cleveland and the Western Reserve. It has THE collection of manuscript maps pertaining to the founding and settlement of northeastern Ohio; a comprehensive collection of the highly-useful atlases by such firms as Sanborn and Hopkins; the largest holding of city directory maps; a considerable number of planning and zoning maps dating to the early 20th century; and many specialized types of maps for particular research needs. Access to the library's published single-sheet maps (i.e., not the atlases) is provided by a remarkable color microfilm and accompanying database, while the atlases and manuscripts may be called down to their reading room. The Society has the most extensive holding of rare books about the region, many of which may contain illustrative maps.

  • Cleveland Public Library's Map Collection cannot match Western Reserve's for historic manuscripts and nineteenth century items, but dwarfs all local repositories for the sheer number of maps and map reference works it has. While most are contemporary in date and international in scope, there is a good holding of local history atlases (especially on microfilm) and other local history maps. CPL has many related resources and departments to draw upon, including a professional map librarian with loads of experience and a tireless work ethic for handling public inquiries.

  • Kent State University's Map Library is more like Cleveland Public's in composition and for researchers south of Cuyahoga County, perhaps more convenient. It holds the only copy so far identified of the 1884 Sanborn atlas of Cleveland, so it is worth the trip for some people on that basis alone.

  • The Cuyahoga County Archives is the official repository for information created by county departments (and other counties have some similar arrangements for their holdings). It holds some of the familiar historic maps and atlases of Cleveland and a considerable amount of unique governmental maps of Cuyahoga County, such as those showing the county's recorded subdivision plats and property ownership maps produced by the auditor:

  • Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library is new to the historic map scene and its small (but growing) collection of maps and atlases is most useful to CSU students already on campus. It is strong in two ways, however, in that it holds a considerable number of old railroad maps of the region and it's librarian has a strong knowledge of local map history (he created this site). There is a strong emphasis on digitizing maps and using GIS and the Cleveland Cartography web site is a gateway to digital information on local maps and map history.

  • Ohio Historical Society, in Columbus, holds the most historic maps of Ohio and should definitely be considered for maps of northeastern parts of the state.

Other places to check include the various governmental departments, historical societies and public libraries in the region, especially for local city and county coverages. Certain repositories exist for highly specialized, industry-specific maps, such as Chicago Title for real estate maps -- so the nature of a research project will dictate which collections are most useful.

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Last updated June 21, 2003

ã Copyright 2000-2003 by William C. Barrow. All rights reserved.