Maps and Aerial Photograph Collection Management Plan


A map is essentially a portrayal of place, in diagrammatic form, and is second only to the spoken and written word as a means of communicating what places are like. Maps are collected because they provide information about distributions and relationships, particularly spatial relationships, of a very wide range of phenomena. They use a vivid graphic form to represent information that is difficult to convey in any other way. They can assist in the understanding of textual matter and may even be an essential part of the text. Properly interpreted, maps provide a range of information for wide and various groups of users.

The University Library map collection began with a collection of topographic sheets left with the University by the United States Army at the end of the Second World War. These sheets, covering Europe, and the southwest Pacific, were kept in the Department of Geography’s reading room. In 1970 the Geography Library was established as one of the University Library's divisional libraries, but it was not until 1973 that specific funding was made available to maintain and expand the map collection. In 2002, with the integration of the Science Group of libraries into the General Library, the maps from the Geography and the Geology Libraries were integrated, and are now housed in a designated Map Room on Level M. The atlas collection is located on shelving immediately outside the Map Room.

The map collection is primarily a collection of printed maps consisting of about 50,000 sheets. Increasingly, maps are only being produced in digital format and new print maps are not actively collected except for the New Zealand and Pacific areas.

Geospatial data, satellite and other remotely sensed digital imagery suitable for use in Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) is also being acquired. Much of this online material is freely available on the internet.

Maps are used by students and staff from a variety of disciplines including Architecture and Planning, the School of Environment, Business, and Biological Sciences. New Zealand material comprises the majority of the collection including the basic topographical series, along with urban plans, and a wide range of thematic maps. Much of the material dates from 1945 onwards. The New Zealand collection is strongest for Auckland and Northland material, weakest for Otago and Southland.

The second largest part of the collection relates to the Pacific Islands, for which there is comprehensive coverage.

Australia, East and Southeast Asia are represented by a balanced collection of topographical and thematic maps, usually small scale, and including urban plans for important cities.

For the rest of the world, coverage includes small scale topographical and tourist maps, and town plans, designed to enable a general overview of an area. The Library maintains a 1:1,000,000 topographical coverage for the world, a 1:250,000 coverage for the United States, and a 1:50,000 coverage for Great Britain, but these maps are no longer being actively collected.


  • Scale
    Large scale maps are drawn at 1:75,000 or greater; medium scale at 1:599,999 to 1:75,000; small scale at 1:600,000 down to 1:100,000,000 or smaller. A smaller scale implies less detail.
  • To appropriate scales
    Different sized areas require differently scaled maps to provide a general overview of the area being mapped. A small nation can be mapped on one or two sheets at a scale of 1:50,000, whereas a large nation will require hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of sheets to obtain coverage at the same scale.
  • Thematic maps
    Include subject maps such as those featuring relief, geology, weather and climate, soils, vegetation and forests, mines and minerals, energy resources, land use, population, industry, transport, languages, history, or politics.

Collecting levels

  • New Zealand
    Nationwide topographic, geological and thematic maps, and town plans are collected to research level. All maps produced by government agencies and commercially published urban plans are collected. Historical maps, if expensive, are considered out of scope, but facsimile and reprint copies are collected.
  • Pacific Islands and Pacific Ocean
    Topographical, thematic and general maps for the Pacific as a whole, or major parts thereof, and for individual islands, are collected at appropriate scales, including town plans to research level.
  • Australia
    Medium and small scale topographic and geological maps and thematic maps at appropriate scales, including town plans are collected to study level.
  • Antarctica
    The Ross Sea Dependency and Sub-Antarctic Islands are collected to research level. Antarctica as a whole, and individual territorial claims, except New Zealand's are collected to study level.
  • Rest of the world
    A collection mostly at Study level provides representative coverage of most of the rest of the world, and includes small scale hydrographic charts of each ocean and a basic level collection of maps of the moon, planets and outer space.
  • Additional Materials
    Reference material, including gazetteers, map indexes and catalogues for all parts of the world, is kept with the Atlas collection.

Maps purchased since 2005 and maps of the Auckland region are fully catalogued. New Zealand, Australian and Antarctic maps have all been classified using a combination of Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress (where Dewey is used to indicate place, and LC is used to indicate subject). Maps of other areas acquired prior to 2005 are shelved in geographical order but not classified or catalogued. A guide to the Map Room providing details of locations is available.

Most maps are retained because they will eventually become of historical interest. Older maps provide details of past landscapes, both human and physical.

Uncatalogued maps are held in the Map Room so that they are available for browsing and are not relegated to storage.

Duplicate donated copies of New Zealand maps may be retained if heavy use is likely, as maps are often more fragile than books. Duplicate copies of maps of other areas are not kept and older editions of sheets that make up large sets are not retained.

Aerial Photographs

Older aerial photographs are of considerable historical value, and are often used in conjunction with current photography for comparative purposes. Aerial photographs are housed in the Map Room and are not available for loan. Print indexes are available for these collections. The collections are retained permanently.

  • The LINZ Aerial Photo Collection
    This collection was originally from the Auckland office of Land Information New Zealand and given to the Library in 2008; the only conditions were that the collection remains intact, and the public be given access. Comprehensive coverage is provided of the North Auckland Land District (which extends from the mouth of the Waikato River to Cape Reinga/North Cape), from the 1940s through to coloured photography of central Auckland City created in 1989.
  • The Geography and Geology Departments’ Collections
    Aerial photographs were purchased in the past by both the Geography and Geology Departments for staff research, for thesis students and for field trips. Because the photos were purchased primarily to assist people doing fieldwork, there is no systematic coverage for any parts of New Zealand.

Photographs are arranged by flight number and are indexed by marking the flight paths on 1:250,000 topographical sheets. Most of the photographs in the collection relate to the northern parts of the North Island. A small amount is held for the South Island.

Reviewed March 2015