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Reconstructing the Past Through Utah Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are a highly requested resource in libraries. Each collection of hand-made maps contains detailed surveyor information on commercial, industrial and residential sections of cities and towns ranging from the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s. While the J. Willard Marriott Library has scanned and created digital versions of the original printed maps, GIS Services has developed and enhanced the collection by creating additional resources for displaying, interacting with, and examining each map through the incorporation of geospatial software and 3-dimensional technology.

Through a process known as georeferencing, each map has been digitally aligned to its related position within physical space, creating a digital overlay viewable within interactive mapping applications. The addition of geospatial components to library materials allows information to be displayed, expressed and presented in ways print or scanned materials are unable to produce. As a result, each map has been exported into multiple formats including, KMZ files for Google Earth and zipped georaster files for ArcGIS, offering individuals of all GIS software backgrounds and experience levels the opportunity to interact with and utilize the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps within their projects and research.

The development of this project has lead to the creation of an innovative portal, connecting students and researchers with original scans and downloadable georeferenced maps available on-demand through the Marriott Library. Utilizing GIS technology within collections such as these opens a new realm for library research, creating new methods for sharing information in a world that thrives on digital content.

This project can be viewed by accessing the Library subject guide at:

Justin Sorensen

View the original article on the Creativity and Innovation Services Blog

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