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Stony Brook University


Contains resources for maps and geospatial research and instruction

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Topographic Maps

The distinguishing feature of topographic maps is their portrayal of the shape and elevation of the terrain, usually by means of contour lines. Detailed (large-scale) topographic maps are usually the most detailed and accurate maps of any particular area. The map collection has nearly complete large-scale topographic coverage of the entire United States. (These are often referred to as "quadrangle maps," and are published by the United States Geological Survey.) The collection also includes small and medium-scale topographic maps of foreign areas, with large-scale coverage of some.

U.S. Topographic Maps: The United States Geological Survey publishes topographic maps at a number of scales. The most important of these are at 1:250,000, 1:100,000, and 1:24,000. The 1:24,000 scale maps (often known as 7.5 minute quadrangle maps) are the most detailed maps covering all of the United States, and it requires approximately 60,000 of them to cover the country. 1:24,000 maps are arranged in alphabetical order by state at the front of the Map Collection (see map of the map collection). An index map is kept in the first drawer for each state. An older series known as "15 minute quadrangles" (at scales of 1:50,000 or 1:62,500) is filed separately after the 7.5 minute maps. The less detailed 1:250,000 and 1:100,000 scale maps are filed just before the 7.5 and 15 minute maps.

Foreign Topographic Maps: Foreign topographic maps are arranged by continent and country according to the Library of Congress classification schedule for maps (a summary of the Library of Congress map classification schedule is pasted on top of the foreign map cases). Topographic maps make up the bulk of the foreign maps in series . In looking for these maps, keep in mind that they are filed at the back of the Map Collection after the smaller-scale foreign sheet maps . If detailed topographic maps are not available for the area you are looking for, try using the 1:1,000,000 and 1:500,000 scale maps of the world. The 1:1,000,000 scale world maps are filed at the beginning of the foreign topographic maps. The 1:500,000 maps (Tactical Pilotage Charts) are in the white file cabinets against the wall (see map of the map collection).