Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

University Libraries receives historical wetland maps
University Libraries administrators (left to right) Robert Ridinger, Byron Anderson and Mary Munroe look over one of thousands of historical wetland maps recently donated to NIU. Photo by Scott Walstrom.

To obtain a print-quality JPEG of this photo, contact the Office of Public Affairs at (815) 753-1681 or e-mail

News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

July 31, 2007

University Libraries happy to be swamped
with thousands of historical wetland maps

DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University Libraries now boasts a huge collection of original Illinois and Indiana wetland maps.

Lawrence Handley, a geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, La., delivered 111 boxes of maps to the library earlier this month.

In all, there are believed to be as many as 10,000 master productions from the 1980s and early 1990s, with detailed topographic depictions of all wetland areas in the two states.

“The maps are a one-of-a-kind resource,” Handley said.

The USGS National Wetlands Research Center and the National Wetlands Inventory of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were happy to find a home for the originals. The agencies are now keeping a digital inventory.

The clear plastic maps can be superimposed over present-day maps for the purpose of studying changes in wetland areas. Robert Ridinger, head of electronic information resources for University Libraries, has the considerable charge of inventorying the maps, which will be made available to the public.

“An original map is like a rare book,” said Mary Munroe, interim dean of University Libraries. “The wetland maps have both historical and educational significance and will be a great research tool for students and faculty in such fields as geography, geology and public administration.”

Geography Chair Andrew Krmenec said the historical maps provide important records of the landscape, human impacts on the landscape and the landscape’s impact on human activity. The maps will be important in the future for wetland mitigation and landscape reconstruction projects, as well as academic research.

”For history and research purposes, it’s important to maintain our historical map collections, even though the world is going digital,” Krmenec said. “Any map has a shelf life, for the purpose it was originally produced. Once that shelf life expires, the maps still provide something of real value—a visual archive of the world.”

The map donation adds to University Libraries’ already extensive map collection, which includes rare and historical maps from across the globe.