8.1 The Library collects Australian and overseas cartographic materials which form part of the documentary record of Australia and reflect its relationship to the rest of the world. The map collection supports documentation, research and the communication of ideas through publications and exhibitions. The Library’s map collection is used by a variety of people for the study of history, genealogy, geography, agriculture, town planning, environmental studies, market research, industry and for legal and defence purposes.


8.2 Cartographic information is held in a range of formats including sheet maps, charts, atlases, gazetteers, aerial and remote sensing images, globes, and electronic spatial data on CD-ROM, disk and in databases held by map publishers. This subject division also covers literature related to the science and art of map production.

Collecting: Australian

8.3 Since its early years the Library has collected cartographic materials as part of its effort to preserve the documentary record of Australia and its people. Particular emphasis has been placed on acquiring the printed maps and atlases produced by Commonwealth and state mapping authorities and publishers in the commercial and private sectors. Topographic maps and a wide range of thematic maps covering subjects such as land tenure, navigation, electoral boundaries, geology, transport, tourism and administrative divisions have also been acquired.

8.4 The Library has a rich collection of early maps of Australia prior to 1900 and of world and regional maps displaying the development of cartographic knowledge of Australia from earliest times, based on the foundation Ferguson, Tooley and Nan Kivell collections. The Library continues to collect significant maps recording early European exploration in the southern hemisphere, surveying and mapping of the Australian continent, and all aspects of settlement and land use.

8.5 A large collection of aerial photography, numbering around 800 000 prints, covering most of Australia, dating from 1928 to 1988, Antarctica, Papua New Guinea and parts of Indonesia has been donated by Commonwealth mapping agencies. The collection complements published mapping and supports research in fields such as geology, heritage and environmental studies. Commonwealth aerial photography continues to be sought as it forms the basis for the topographic mapping of Australia. Satellite imagery catalogues have been acquired with the Australian Centre for Remote Sensing (ACRES) remaining the principal repository in Australia for satellite imagery.

8.6 Most Australian maps are received in accordance with legal deposit provisions under the Copyright Act 1968. The Library also seeks material published overseas about Australia. Very ephemeral cartographic material, such as small pamphlet-sized sheets giving directions to a single tourist destination, is collected selectively. Manuscript maps, while rare, are occasionally acquired.

8.7 The Library continues to acquire maps retrospectively, paying attention to significant gaps in the collection particularly relating to the development of roads and other transport links, urbanisation, land ownership and environmental changes.

8.8 Electronic spatial data, either on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM is acquired selectively with the software necessary to provide access to the data. Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) products and databases that are intended for use in the creation of maps, and which require additional software to run, are not collected. The Library will negotiate with data creators and map producers to ensure ongoing archiving and the future access to spatial data and products. Spatial data published on websites which are identified as significant for future research is being archived in PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive. Geospatial Positioning System or Global Positioning System (GPS) products and databases intended for use with mobile navigational devices, for tracking, location and other synchronous and positional application are not collected.

8.9 Catalogues, gazetteers and guides to all forms of Australian cartographic materials, whether in digital or conventional forms, are also acquired.

Collecting: Overseas

8.10 With over 500 000 sheet maps and a similar number of aerial photographs, the Library’s overseas map collection is the largest and most diverse in the country. Overseas maps are important, not just as resources depicting geographical areas, but as material carrying a wide range of subject information such as census and tourism data. The overseas component is received by donation and purchase.

8.11 The overseas map collection is extensive in its geographical coverage, chronological range and variety. A large collection of current and retrospective single sheets and topographic map series is enhanced by a variety of thematic maps. Current and retrospective world and national atlases and a range of thematic atlases are collected. A small sample of current and retrospective globes of the world and celestial bodies is held. Reference works such as gazetteers have been collected in depth. With the collection consisting largely of government mapping, the Library has placed emphasis on the acquisition of the major topographical series for areas of special importance to Australia for geographic, economic, strategic and cultural reasons. The existing collection is particularly strong in maps of the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and the Pacific.

8.12 The Library continues to develop and expand its collection of overseas maps for those countries and regions to which it has assigned a high collecting priority. Thus, the major emphasis is placed on East Asia, South-East Asia, South Asia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. The Library attempts to obtain a wide selection of current and retrospective general and thematic atlases, single and series topographical maps and thematic maps. It is envisaged that for many of these countries, cartographic information will mainly be obtained in paper-based formats although some increase in electronic availability is likely.

8.13 While material from the United Kingdom and Europe is increasingly available in electronic form, the Library will continue to collect printed maps from these areas so that information is available and accessible in both formats. For all other countries of the world, the Library will seek the acquisition of major general atlases of each country, single and series topographical maps, important thematic maps, and street maps of the capital or major cities.

8.14 The Library purchases rare maps only where these are relevant to the history, discovery and exploration of Australia.

8.15 Remote sensing imagery in published form is collected when other cartographic information cannot be acquired.

8.16 A wide selection of gazetteers from all over the world continues to be acquired to serve as a key reference adjunct to the cartographic collection. Many gazetteers are now accessible on the Internet via links from the Library’s website.

8.17 Selected monographs and serials on cartography are acquired to provide a professional context for the management and operation of the collection and, in the long term, a representative record of developments in this subject field.

Access to the Collections

8.18 Information about the Library’s map collection is available through the catalogue at sheet level for Australian maps and overseas single maps and at collection level for overseas maps in series, where the collection has been catalogued. Indexes are available through the Map Reading Room for both Australian and overseas series maps. Map staff also provide assistance to the uncatalogued collection.

8.19 Access to the Library's map collections is being progressively made available online through bibliographic records and digitised images. Over 6,000 maps have been digitised, with priority given to early (pre-1900) world, Pacific region and Australian maps. Selective modern maps are also scanned.

8.20 Modern maps and atlases may be photocopied or made available on interlibrary loan ,subject to preservation risk and copyright. Rare maps and atlases are not loaned or photocopied but digital scans can be provided. All of the collection is available for onsite use though the Map Reading Room.

8.21 Digital spatial data in hard format (i.e. CD-ROM or floppy disk) is available only through the Map Reading Room.

Relations with other Institutions

8.22 The Library maintains the strong relationships that have been built up over the years with map publishers — particularly state, territory and Commonwealth governments, as well as the state libraries and the National Archives of Australia. Such relationships have proved beneficial in providing access to collections or material not available through normal commercial and/or deposit channels.