The State Library has a sizable collection of more than 3,400 historical maps, 430 atlases, and 2,500 plans. These materials are housed in the Library’s Special Collections Department in room 55 of the State House. Some of the State Library’s maps and atlases have been digitized and are available in the Library’s online repository, DSpace.
Maps and Atlases
The Library’s map collection covers most Massachusetts communities and is particularly strong in 19th- and 20th-century commercial publications, bird's-eye views, and maps of the city of Boston.
The Library’s real estate atlases and Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, both in hard copy and on microfilm, are among the most highly used items in the Special Collections department. Originally created for the fire insurance industry for risk assessment purposes, Sanborn maps contain highly detailed information on such building features as size and shape, construction details, roof type, occupancy, street addresses, and often date of construction. The maps in the collection date from the 1860s to roughly 1990.
The historical map collection also includes panoramic maps (or bird's-eye views), railroad maps and profiles, county atlases, current and historical topographic maps, and printed maps issued by Massachusetts state agencies.
The Library also has a collection of legislative redistricting maps, which detail district changes from the 19th century to the current day. A few of these redistricting maps have been digitized and are available in the State Library’s online repository, DSpace.
Plans of the State House make up the bulk of the collection of architectural plans, which date from 1850 to 1995. Diagrams, floor plans, details, technical drawings, and landscape plans document the structural and physical changes to the State House as well as to the state office building at One Ashburton Place. A few plans of other state buildings and structures, including the Massachusetts Zoological Society, Nashua River Reservoir, and Conway and Shelburne bridges, also exist.
The Library also holds a collection of about 2,500 uncataloged plans of the State House and One Ashburton Place. A basic index of these plans is available in the Special Collections Department.