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Maps & Atlases: Map Room Maps

A guide to the physical and electronic map resources available in Murphy Library

The Maproom

The Map Room is located in the basement of Murphy Library, Room 17.  The Map Room integrates materials collected by the Geography and Earth Science Department over many years with materials received at UWL through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) from 1982-2008.  Over 40,000 topographic maps are held, along with planimetric maps, geologic maps, image maps, and geologic and topographic atlases.  In addition, there is a small quantity of global maps, historic maps (1890's to 1917), and maps of the solar system.  There are also Antarctic photo maps, and Antarctic Satellite Image Maps.  

The majority of the maps are of varying scales of USGS topographic and planimetric maps of the United States, with the scales typically 1:24,000, 1:25,000, or 1:250,000.  

Map Room FDLP maps received since 2004 are listed in the Library Catalog (Search@UW).  Maps may be found in Search@UW using the search terms 7.5 minute series (topographic maps), map scale (such as 1:24,000), or series number (if known).

Map room materials may be checked out for the same length of time as regular books.

How to use the map room

Using the drawing of the map room provided on this lib guide that outlines and displays where certain maps and sizes are located in the room, choose the particular state or kind of map you want.   The quads of the states in the 1:24,000 scale are shelved by state and map name. 

There are 7.5 minute,15 minute, and 30 minute and larger:  The 7.5 minute (1:24,000, 1:25,000 scale maps) are the ones of interest to most users because Murphy has many more of those kinds.  15 minute...30 minute are 30 X 60 (1:100,000 scale maps) while 30 X 30 are 1:250,000 scale maps.

Place your maps you are studying on the top large flat parts of the filing cabinets.  Please do not refile them, but place in the designated area for someone else to put back.

Materials in Temporary Storage

Due to the flooding event of August 2021, the basement of Murphy Library is currently closed.

Government Documents collections housed in the basement, including Federal government documents, Wisconsin government documents, and the Map Room Map Collection, are safe but currently in storage and not available for use.

We currently estimate that the government documents collections will become available again around September 2023, when repairs to the basement are estimated to be completed.

The library's first and second floor remain open, and government documents held on microform remain available.

The library remains open to the public for access to online government information, and librarians remain available to assist with accessing and using government information sources.

Further details at

Maproom - Room 17 in Murphy Library in basement

Located in the library's basement, this is the outside of the map room, Room Number 17:

Direction and layout:  Click on the floor map below for a larger version.  The front door of the map room is facing north.  Go directly south to access the map cabinets on the opposite wall.

Find maps in the Library Catalog

Here is what the description for a 7.5 series topographic map of Alaska looks like in Search@UW:  (note the holdings statement in italics; that is what the location of the maps in the basement would look like).


1:24 000 series (topographic) : [Alaska]. 64147-G5-TF-024, Fairbanks D-2 SE quadrangle, Alaska-North Star Borough, 1966 / mapped, edited, and published by the Geological Survey.  Geological Survey (U.S.).between 1900-1999]-

Check holdings at UW La Crosse Murphy Library Maps, Topographic 7.5' Series (basement) 

Common labels on front of map case drawers or cabinets and their definitions

USGS - United States Geological Survey.  The map room has USGS topographic maps, USGS Color Image Maps, USGS Satellite Image Maps of the U.S.,and USGS County Map series. 

AMS - Army Map Service from 1941 - 1968 which compiled, published, and distributed military topographic maps .  It merged into DMA.

Bathymetric - topographic maps of the ocean or sea floor.

DMA - Defense Mapping Agency, 1972 -

Investigative maps - multicolor maps of diverse topical material like bedrock, geology, marine geology, mineral and energy resources, geophysics, and geochemistry.  Also includes the solar system.  Each map is folded and placed in a paper jacket in those tall filing cabinets.

Latitude, Longitude - these are in degrees-minutes-seconds format, then they are converted to decimal-minutes. (See definition for minutes).

Map Series - a group of topographic maps usually having the same scale and cartographic specifications, and each sheet is identified by belonging to the same series.  The 15 minute quadrangle series was replaced by the 7.5 minutes series (1:24,000).  Other series include:  1:25,000, 1:250,000 and the 30 X 60 minute series (1:100,000). 

Minutes - a minute is 1/60th of a degree, and not a measure of time.  7.5 minute maps refer to an area on a map that is 7 minutes and 30 seconds of longitude by 7 minutes and 30 seconds of latitude.  Latitude and longitude are in degrees-minutes-seconds format, and then converted to decimal-minutes.  Both the differences on the latitude and the difference on the longitude are 7 minutes and 30 seconds.

Orthophoto:  an ariel photograph or image geometrically corrected so the scale is uniform, and it is in 7.5 minute quad format.  Orthophotomaps can be topographic, bathymetric, black & white, and quads.

Planimetric - those maps not showing elevation, roads, buildings, rivers, and lakes, but only the horizontal positions of features on the Earth's surface which show geographic objects, natural features, and details such as roads, sidewalks, streets, highways, alleys including curb lines, edge of paved surfaces or edge of traveled way, and general feature details as building footprints, reservoirs, tanks, docks, piers, airports, bridges, overpasses, underpasses, railroads, parking lots, driveways, other impervious surfaces, streams, lakes, drainage courses, holding basins, shorelines, other watercourses, vegetation outlines, elevations, fence lines, drainage, and other similar construction or terrain features.

Quadrangles - a USGS 7.5-minute quad map, usually named after a local physiographic feature.  Alphabetized quadrangles are arranged alphabetically in the map drawers. 

Scale (or map scale) - the relationship between the distance shown on the map and the actual distance.  Scales vary from 1:24,000 to 1:250,000, and covers areas ranging from the entire earth to a city block or less.

Topographic - detailed graphic representations of features appearing on the Earth's surface, called land contours, plus streams or other bodies of water, forest cover, built-up areas, or individual buildings, and other points of interest.

USGS Topographic Maps online

Wisconsin maps

The drawers specifically holding Wisconsin topographic maps are located in the second large map cabinet. in several flat map drawers.  (The first large cabinet is across from the front door.)  These WI maps are arranged by quads alphabetically.  The very last drawer of that WI map cabinet contains Wisconsin topographic and planimetric maps in 15 minutes series.

Questions: Contact the Reference Desk