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Map collections and resources: Maps FAQs

This library guide will introduce you to Stanford Libraries map collections, services, and related resources.

Maps FAQs


Below are answers to general questions we are commonly asked regarding our map collections. Please feel free to contact our map librarians to have any further questions answered!

What is the difference between the collections of Branner Library and the David Rumsey Map Center? 

Branner Library map collections are primarily comprised of maps from 1920 to present and are housed on the mezzanine in Branner Earth Sciences Library & Map Collections. Most of the map collection is circulating, meaning you can check the maps out just like you would a book. 

The Rumsey Center map collection is primarily comprised of rare maps and is housed in the Center at Green Library. You can request to view these maps in person through the map record found in SearchWorks; generally the map will be ready for you at the Center within 48 hours. 

Both locations are committed to scanning any maps out of copyright and providing free, publicly accessible high resolution images of the maps for download.

Both locations do not have the space to store their full collections on-campus and therefore utilize an off-campus storage facility for approximately half of all the held maps. You can use SearchWorks to locate and then 'request on-site access' for that map, a process which generally takes 48 hours.

I found a map that has a thumbnail indicating that it has been scanned but the image in the viewer is blurry, and I can't download it. Why?

There are some maps that have been scanned but are not fully releasable to the public yet. We are legally allowed to provide a thumbnail sized image for you to view but cannot yet provide you with the full size image to download. The thumbnail is provided to help you confirm that the map record is indeed the map you are looking for, and you can then 'request on-site access' to view the map in person.

How much is my map worth?

Here at the Center, we don't have specialized knowledge about the rare map market or about the value of different maps. To find out how much your map may be worth, it would be best to reach out to an appraiser directly.


Branner Library Map Collections

Below are answers to questions we are commonly asked regarding our Branner Library Map Collections. 

When do your maps go out of copyright?

Generally, each country abides by some version of copyright law which dictates when published works become public domain. A common time frame is between 75-100 years from publication meaning that many maps created between 1920-1945 are eligible to be scanned and those images are available for public use (along with all the maps published before that time frame). Please do note that this is a generalization and there may be more specific guidelines for any given map. 

Maps published by a U.S. federal agency are also generally in the public domain, time frame unrestricted. Below are some of our favorite map collections that fall under this category:

Army Map Service (AMS)

Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

Federal-Aid Highway System

Branner Library is an Earth sciences library, does that mean you only have geologic or topographic maps? 

No! We have no limit on the scope of our collections but rather intentionally try to build the most comprehensive and broad collections we can.

Our collections include map themes such as: advertising, cadastral, celestial, city plans, crests, data visualization, ethnographic, expeditions, islands, mining, political, ports/harbors, propaganda, railroads, natural resources, roads, shipping, soil, timelines, travel/tourist, views, war, you get the idea.

Cartography is commonly referred to as the intersection of art and science, and we love championing the interdisciplinary nature of maps!