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Maps & Atlases: Types of Maps

Information and resources about the UBC map collection.

Types of Maps

The boxes on this page describe a few of the major types of maps available in the UBC Library Map Collection.

To find maps in the collection, see the other pages of this guide: Finding Maps, Print Highlights, or Online Maps.

Topographic Maps

Example of topographic map.

A topographic map, or topo map, is a detailed map that uses contour lines to show elevation from sea-level, as well as roads, buildings, lakes, rivers, and more. It can display the elevation of both natural features, such as mountains, and human-made structures, such as the Great Wall of China.

Topographic maps are often published in series, such as the National Topographic System of Canada or the United States Geological Survey, where multiple map sheets combine to form the whole map.

There are multiple uses for topographic maps, including urban planning, civil engineering, resource management, surveying, or recreational uses such as hiking, fishing, or camping.

Additional Resources

How to Find Topographic Maps

Country Maps

Close-up example of a map of Canada

Country maps can show political boundaries and natural features, including provinces, regions, cities, towns, rivers, lakes, mountains, and major roads.

They can be produced by numerous different organizations or publishers, and can come in a variety of scales. They can depict different thematic content, such as physical characteristics that might be useful for navigation or recreation, or political content that displays national boundaries or other data.

How to Find Country Maps

Geological Map

Close up of a geological map.

Geological maps, or geologic maps, show selected natural features. Often they have a topographic base map with added geological information, such as resources (minerals, petroleum, or water), soil, bedrock, strata, fault lines, etc.

In Canada, national geological maps are produced by the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). There are various other countries and organizations that also produce geological maps.

Resources

How to Find Geological Maps

Navigation Charts

Close up of a nautical chart.

Navigation maps primarily include nautical charts and aeronautical charts. They are designed to help sailors, pilots, or other navigators find appropriate routes. Nautical charts show maritime or coastal regions, and can include bathymetric data, which is topographic information that measures the depth below sea level. Aeronautical charts contain flight information, such as altitudes, landing sites, and airspace boundaries.

Resources

How to Find Navigation Charts

Thematic Maps

Close up of a thematic map of crime rates.

A thematic map is a type of map that displays information about a particular topic or subject related to the area that is depicted. They can be produced in a variety of scales (showing the whole world, or country, region, city, etc.).

Thematic maps can be divided into quantitative and qualitative types. Quantitative thematic maps display numerical or statistical data, such as population density or crime rates. Qualitative thematic maps generally use non-numerical data to show where a phenomenon can be found, such as mineral sites. Overall, thematic maps can display data related to physical, political, cultural, social, demographic, economic, sociological, agricultural, environmental, or other aspects of a geographical area.

Resources

How to Find Thematic Maps

Historical Maps

Close-up of a historical world map.

Historical maps are part of a broad category that can include maps produced in historical eras from countries and regions around the world, as well as reproductions of maps of the ancient world.

How to Find Historical Maps

Image credits

"Topographic map example", public domain image courtesy of the US Geological Survey, modified from the original.

"Canada towns map trim 398," public domain image courtesy of the CIA World Factbook, modified from the original

"Mesquite Nevada Geologic Map," public domain image courtesy of the US Geological Survey, modified from the original.

"NOAA chart 25664 1976," public domain image courtesy of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, modified from the original.

"Meyers b18 s0533a" thematic map example, public domain image, modified from the original.

"World of Ptolemy" by Johannes de Armsshein, public domain image, modified from the original.