By Elliot Carter
The Geography and Maps Division at the Library of Congress is one of the more interesting rooms on Capitol Hill. Their hoard includes 5.2 million maps, 80,000 atlases and over 500 globes; it is the largest cartographic collection in the world.
The Geography and Maps Division is curated by map specialist Edward Redmond. "The Library's cartographic collections contain coverage for every country and subject, in formats ranging from early manuscripts to the most up-to-date digital geospatial data and software" said Redmond.
"Its holdings include the works of some of the most important cartographers throughout the long history of mapmaking and maps made by early American mapmakers and surveyors, like George Washington, Meriwether Lewis, and Richard Edes Harrison, along with archives relating to the history of geography in the United States."
Redmond shows off one of his favorite geographical items in the photo at right, a book owned by Thomas Jefferson. "It's a gazzeter of the United States, a description of the geography. Lewis and Clark had just set off for the west, did Jefferson acquire this for that? We don't know. I discovered this when we moved all of our atlases into this room. I spent months doing it. I would come in on Sundays and Saturdays and just move these atlases because there wasn't anyone else around to bother me." One day Redmond unexpectedly happened upon the forgotten book, "low and behold ... Thomas Jefferson." (The library has two volumes of this book, the other is kept with the public Jefferson exhibit.)
The room is open to the public and located in the Library of Congress Madison building. If you can't visit in person their website has a deep archive that includes ultra-local Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, military campaigns, panoramic illustrations, and other cartographic resources in every conceivable form.