Map Collection

detail from Vincenzo Coronelli's L'Amerique Sophentrionale, 1704. Call No.: 4F 63300 1704.C6.The map collection at the Minnesota Historical Society consists of about 19,000 maps and nearly 2,000 volumes of atlases. The collection strongly emphasizes Minnesota Territory and the state of Minnesota, its regions, counties and cities from 1849 to the present.

The collection also includes selected maps and atlases of a wider geographic area encompassing North America, Canada, the United States, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River Valley. Together these materials trace the process of discovery, exploration, settlement and development of the state and region as well as past and present relationships with other areas.

The Reserve Collection of rare maps, the oldest of which dates from 1581, documents the exploration of the center of the North American continent. These maps offer invaluable data on Native American settlement and the process of European movement into the area.

Fire insurance maps, with their detailed renderings showing individual structures, provide valuable information on construction and use of buildings in urban places. This collection, the most complete of its kind, covers 958 Minnesota towns and cities in 90 bound volumes and 7,000 individual maps dating from 1875 to the 1970s. Many are available for use by the public on microfilm.

Comprising the largest part of the atlas collection are the Minnesota Historical Society's 1,350 county atlases and plat books showing land ownership. Some of Minnesota's 87 counties have atlases dating to the 1860s; others are not covered until the 20th century. The collection also includes atlases and plat books for counties in the surrounding states.

Online Maps

True North

True North allows dynamic searching and manipulation of maps. You can play with maps and zoom into your neighborhood!

Minnesota Maps Online

Minnesota Maps Online searches Minnesota's original public land survey plats.

Adding Maps to Google Earth

Add historic maps to Google Earth via WMS.

  1. Download Google Earth to your computer
  2. After downloading, In the Google Earth toolbar click Add - Image Overlay
  3. Click the Refresh tab
  4. Click WMS Parameters
  5. Click Add in the Upper right hand corner
  6. In the popup box, enter the URL: http://www.lmic.state.mn.us/cgi-bin/mapserv?map=/home/httpd/html-LMIC/ghol/ghol_wms.map&request=GetCapabilities&version=1.1.1&service=WMS&FORMAT=png&SRS=epsg:4326

You'll see over 150 layers populate the left-hand side of the screen. Scroll down, click on a map title that looks interesting. Click Add to send it to the right-hand box. Click OK. Click OK in the next box, and you'll be able to zoom into your historic map in Google Earth view.

Be patient, sometimes they take a moment to load.

Searching the Collection

Atlases and Minnesota Maps

Atlases and Minnesota maps published prior to 1900 are available in the library catalog.

Fire Insurance Maps

Maps by the Sanborn Map Publishing Company are also available on microfilm in the Ronald Hubbs Room. Search the library catalog for information about Sanborn maps in the Society's collection. A detailed list of cities covered is also available.

Fire Underwriter Inspection Bureau (also known as Fisher) maps cover many smaller towns and villages not included in the Sanborn series; original copies are available in the Weyerhaueser Reading Room. Ask the reference staff for assistance. A complete list of holdings available.

Maps by the Rascher Insurance Map Company are available on microfilm in the Ronald Hubbs Room. The Minnesota Historical Society has maps covering the cities of Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Land Ownership Maps

Land ownership maps are listed in the library catalog.

Consult the library staff for assistance in locating other maps in the Minnesota Historical Society collection.

Other Information