Skip to main content

Anthropology Research Guide: Historic Maps

On these pages you'll find resources for Anthropology at the Mansfield Library and the University of Montana.

Regional & Historical Maps

This collection is a conglomeration of maps of North America, western expeditions and explorations, railroad surveys, boundary surveys, territorial maps, roads and trails, early maps of Montana and other western states, maps of Montana cities and counties, national forest maps and more.

Use the following resources to identify map call numbers:

1. Indexed, Annotated Cartobibliography of University of Montana's Historical Map CollectionContains a table of contents, an index, and call numbers.This cartobibliography is available on the Reference Shelf in the Archives & Special Collections reading room (call # MAP REF 912.78 X M287i).

2. Map Card Catalog. Located on Level 1 in the reference area.

3. Library Cataog (http://catalog.lib.umt.edu). Use the "Advance Search" and "Set Limits" to "Maps". Once you identify the maps you want make note of the call number and location designation (locked case, vertical file, or annex). Then proceed to the Archives & Special Collections Reading room on level 4.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

According to the Digital Sanborn Maps website:

"Sanborn fire insurance maps are the most frequently consulted maps in both public and academic libraries. Sanborn maps are valuable historical tools for urban specialists, social historians, architects, geographers, genealogists, local historians, planners, environmentalists and anyone who wants to learn about the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods. They are large-scale plans containing data that can be used to estimate the potential risk for urban structures. This includes information such as the outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers. Seven or eight different editions represent some areas. (http://sanborn.umi.com/HelpFiles/about.html)

Sanborn maps of Missoula and other Montana cities are accessible in a number of locations in the Mansfield Library.

1. Level 4 :  Paper copies of  Sanborn company maps of Missoula can be found in the map cases located in the Archives and Special Collections reading room. These maps are organized by year. Each year has its own index-map which shows the numbered sections of the city and lists streets with the section number they are in. Each index is filed along with that year's maps. Years available are 1884, 1888, 1891, 1902, 1912, and 1921.

2. Level 1: Microfilm: Sanborn fire insurance maps. Montana. Call #: 912.782 S198. Contained on 8 rolls of microfilm, these are Sanborn maps for the state of Montana copied from the original copies in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress. A guide is available on level 1 to help you locate the reel you need: Call #  MAP REF 912.786 S198f.

3. Digital Sanborn Maps. The Mansfield Library has access to the Digital Sanborn maps for Montana residents. Contact the Reference Desk at 406-243-6866 for the login information.

Bureau of Land Management Boundary Maps (Cadastral Survey Plats & Notes)

These maps of the Territory/State of Montana were produced by the General Land Office (GLO) beginning in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century. The GLO was part of The Department of the Interior and then absorbed into the BLM in 1946.

According to the BLM website, "Survey plats ... were the official survey documentation used when land title was transferred (via a land patent) from the Federal government to individuals. The survey plats are the graphic drawing of the boundaries created by each survey and contain the official acreage used in the legal description of the public lands. Plats are critical historic documents that can help researchers locate the land referenced in a land patent's legal land description (i.e. Meridian, Township, Range, and Section/Block).

All of our plat maps are available on-line along with the surveyor notes. (paper copies of plat maps, not survey notes, are stored on level 1 in the Map Annex)

Historic Maps Online

There are a number of websites that provide excellent access to digitized and born digital maps. Here are just a few:

USGS Gelogic Atlas of the United States

The Geologic Atlas of the United States is a set of 227 folios published by the U.S. Geological Survey between 1894 and 1945.  The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library has folios 1 thru 211 of this atlas.  Each folio includes both topographic and geologic maps for each quad represented in that folio, as well as description of the basic and economic geology of the area. Each of these folios contains 1:62,500 topo maps.The topography of each quadrangle is described in great detail along with the geologic history that formed those topopgraphic features. The atlas provides a good source for late 19th and early 20th century topo maps. The Mansfield Library has folios 1 thru 211 of this atlas. Below is a link to digitized versions from Texas A&M.

Ask Us! We're Here to Help

  Chat with a Librarian

Use the Chat in the lower right corner of library webpages from 9am-5pm Monday-Thursday and 9am-1pm Friday. Submit questions using the Email a Librarian link outside of those hours.


  Ask a Librarian

We will respond to messages within 24-48 hours.


Follow us on Facebook


  Instagram free icon  Follow us on Instagram