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Native American Spaces: Cartographic Resources at the Library of Congress

Using the Geography & Map Collections

Map showing the location of the Geography and Map Reading Room. Library of Congress.

The Geography and Map Division has custody of the Library's collection of over five million maps, atlases, globes, and other cartographic materials. Unfortunately, there is neither a comprehensive catalog of the division's holdings nor a definitive guide to its resources for Indian studies. The division's Indian-related cartographic holdings are composed primarily of governmental (federal) and commercial printed materials. The division also has numerous manuscript maps and a collection of photostatic reproductions of originals from European archives and libraries that supplement primarily its coverage of the colonial period.

Researchers should bear in mind that the bulk of the division's collections are not digitized and thus not viewable by way of the Library's Website. Patrons are encouraged to examine the original materials in the Geography and Map Reading Room, the research center dedicated to serving the division's collections. Staff are always available to assist researchers in identifying, reviewing, and reproducing materials.

The Geography and Map Division maintains a number of organization and filing schemes for its materials, and, because of this variety, researchers are encouraged to consult with the division's reference staff for assistance. The following are the major collections which contain cartographic material of value for Indian studies.

Cartographic Collections at the Library of Congress

Maps acquired since 1968 have been cataloged according to the Library's MARC Maps format. Consequently, these materials may be searched through the LC catalog by a variety of standard fields, such as title, creator, publisher, date, subject, location, and scale. Searches for cartographic materials can be limited by location in the Library to "Geography & Map" and by type of material to either "Map" or "Map (manuscript)," as well as by language and place of publication.

Uncataloged/Title Collection

The majority of maps received prior to 1968, including many of the maps of interest for Indian studies, are uncataloged, and therefore are not listed in the LC online catalog. This Uncataloged/Title collection is organized primarily by geographic area and chronologically thereunder. The geographic areas relevant for this resource study are North America, the United States, and the separate states. These geographic areas are further subdivided by: a) subjects; b) miscellaneous geographic regions; c) first order administrative divisions (counties); and d) cities. Since Indian-related maps fall within a great number of geographic areas, there are numerous possible filing locations for pertinent materials. There are, however, two key filing locations under each geographic heading where most of the materials on American Indians can be found. The first and most important under the "subject" category under the heading of "Indians," and the second, which will contain fewer items of interest, is in the "miscellaneous geographic regions" category under the names of individual tribes. Other subject files, such as archeology, history, military, ethno-linguistic, and wars may also include relevant items.

Atlas Collection

The majority of atlases are cataloged and searchable in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. In addition, the Library's nine-volume A List of Geographical Atlases in the Library of Congress by Philip L. Phillips and Clara Egli LeGear includes an outdated but comprehensive index to individual maps, especially those related to North America, bound into atlases published before 1968.

Vault Collection

The division's rare globes, atlases, and maps, including all manuscript maps, are housed separately in a secure facility. Most of this "Vault" collection has been cataloged, save for a few maps that are filed under their appropriate LC call number but whose records are unverified and therefore not included in the LC catalog. Reading Room staff are able to confirm the status of Vault materials and retrieve them for use.

The division's Vault collection holds two small manuscript collections that contain some Indian-related materials. The Lewis and Clark Collection includes thirteen maps which belonged to explorer William Clark. The maps were transferred to the Library by the Office of Indian Affairs in 1925. Several pertain to Clark's years as superintendent of Indian Affairs. Most are available via the Library Website as digital images. The Andrew Jackson Collection of eleven maps relates chiefly to General Jackson's operations in the South during the War of 1812 and his campaign against the Creek Indians in 1813 and 1814.