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Image of Washington, D.C. with the Capitol in front and the rest of the City behind it
View of Washington City. E. Sachse & Company, 1871

Teaching with Maps in the Classroom

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This post is by Celia Roskin, an Educational Resources Specialist at the Library of Congress.

Closely observe this map.

  • How would you describe it?
  • Why do you think this map was made?
  • What do you wonder about?

We posed these questions to online participants during the Library of Congress Maps in the Classroom webinar event (timestamp 32:47 – 36:44).

Diving into an extensive repository of maps, atlases, and globes from the world’s largest map library, I worked with Amelia Raines, a Geography and Map Reference Librarian to host this webinar and highlight the Library of Congress’ maps resources and related pedagogical practices. With close to 6 million cartographic materials and nearly 60,000 digitized items, there is a map for educators of every discipline available within the Library’s Geography and Map division. The recording of this comprehensive educator crash course on using maps as primary sources is now available on the Library of Congress website!

Amelia kicked off the event with a live demonstration of practical ways to navigate the Library’s digitized map collection and shared tips for narrowing and defining your search (timestamp 6:56 – 10:58). She shared with participants some standout map collections for teachers (timestamp 12:39 – 22:09) including the following:

Plan of Fort Henry and its outworks. United States Army Corps of Engineers, 1864


Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii aliorumque lustrationes., Martin Waldseemüller,,1507]


Map showing railroad lines for the eastern, southern and central parts of the United States
Lloyd’s American railroad map. James T. Lloyd, 1861


Sanborn map showing the town of Anderson, Indiana
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Anderson, Madison County, Indiana. 1890

Amelia shared additional offerings from the Geography and Map division, including

  • online cartographic catalogs (timestamp 11:02 – 12:09) and
  • research guides (timestamp 22:49 – 26:00)

She also highlighted online initiatives that use geographic information system technology to make Library collections more accessible (timestamp 25:39 – 29:49).

I then showed online resources for educators, found on the Library’s Teachers site, such as easily accessible tools like the Analyzing Maps Teacher’s Guide, which prompts educators to pose critical thinking questions to students during an ‘Observe, Reflect, Question’ analysis activity (timestamp 40:20 – 43:20). In addition, teachers will also find free to use map-related primary sources. Search for the term “map” using the navigation tool on the Primary Source Sets page (timestamp 43:21 – 46:02) to discover collections with teaching notes, like “Maps From The World Digital Library.” Also, explore the Library’s Free to Use and Reuse sets for more resources (timestamp 47:49 – 48:57).

Do you have questions or ideas about how to use maps in your classroom? Contact us at Ask a Librarian.

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