KU News Release


June 27, 2011
Contact: Sarah Kanning, KU Libraries, 785-864-1761

KU Libraries' digitized Sanborn maps offer slices of history for 241 Kansas cities

LAWRENCE — A $30,000 grant has helped the University of Kansas Libraries digitize and deliver slices of history in the form of highly detailed, full-color maps that document 241 cities and towns in Kansas.

The Sanborn Map Co. created maps of cities across the United States at intervals of four or five years, starting in the late 1860s. The maps provided insurance underwriters with information about the locations of businesses, the structures in which they were located and any information needed to assess their liability for insurance purposes, such as building materials used. Now they show how cities changed and grew over time and offer insights into Kansas history.


“There’s a tremendous amount of detail — where windows were located, number of stories to a building, roof composition,” Sherry Williams, curator of collections at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, said of the maps. “Historians, historic preservationists, architects and city planners love these maps, and making them freely available online will bring them to whole new audiences.”

Before this project, visitors to KU’s Spencer Research Library could see and use the complete set of print maps for Kansas, but no color digital versions were available online until now.

The grant, from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, funded the digitization of the maps documenting Kansas cities and towns from 1883 through 1922 (which are now in the public domain); KU Libraries provided the online home for the digital collection, comprising 5,245 images, at http://cds.lib.ku.edu/sanborn-maps. The collection is searchable by city, county and date.

Williams served as the project director, and Wade Garrison, librarian with the Center for Digital Scholarship at KU Libraries, was the project manager.

Spencer Research Library and its staff are dedicated to the preservation of diverse collections ranging from medieval manuscripts and other rare books to Kansas historical records to national political documents. For more information, visit http://spencer.lib.ku.edu.

The Center for Digital Scholarship supports KU’s evolving research environment with expertise and tools for creating and using digital scholarship to enhance research, teaching, and learning at KU.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission promotes the preservation and use of America's documentary heritage essential to understanding our democracy, history and culture.


The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

kunews@ku.edu | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045

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