Marieta's Retirement Ramblings

University of Iowa Libraries, Map Collection, Iowa City


Another installment in the series to find hidden genealogical treasures:

University of Iowa Libraries
Map Collection
3111 Main Library
Iowa City, Iowa 52242


Two genealogy friends and I visited the map collection area at the University of Iowa Library. Paula Balkenende explained their collection as she gave us a tour. She told us that they are currently digitizing many Iowa county atlases 1875-1916. More information about this project can be found at: To access the digitized maps use:

Maps in this collection are preserved by encapsulating them in mylar. The maps can be copied or scanned using either the scanner in this office, or by using an oversized scanner located elsewhere; scans can be printed or saved onto a flash drive. She emphasized that the entire collection is open to anyone, not just individuals associated with the university. She also told us that this facility is a Federal depository of topographic maps of the United States, so maps for areas outside Iowa may also be found here.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps – six large map drawers contain original fire insurance maps for towns in Iowa (original maps contain color coding for buildings, etc.). In addition, they have all of the Sanborn maps for Iowa on microfiche (fiche means the maps images are in black and white–no color coding).

Important Farmlands maps were produced by the US Department of Agriculture in the 1980s and can be found in this collection.

Aerial photos – Iowa Aerial Photo Indices Digital Collection includes more than 2,000 of aerial photos from 1936 into the 1970s combined into photomosaic index sheets that have been digitized. These can be found at Researchers can then find the number of the photograph(s) that they need.

A searchable, but outdated index to 150,000 photos can be found at: Photos now being added to the collection are indexed in the University of Iowa’s InfoHawk catalog along with the ongoing project of adding the older photos to InfoHawk.

Researchers should use both the online catalog and the onsite card catalog.

Paula told us that Iowa State University is also posting digitized aerial photos which start in the 1930s. This collection is extensive with as many as 150,000 photos and can be found at

The University of Iowa photo collection is used primarily by the archeology department and engineers. Genealogists are the minority.

My question is: are genealogists aware of this collection?