About Government and Geographic Information and Data Services

The Government and Geographic Information and Data Services Department (Gov Info) houses maps and data collections, workstations for GIS and data work, and is a depository library for U.S. government, State of Illinois, United Nations, Organization of American States, European Union, and World Tourism Organization publications in all formats. Many materials in the department are not included in NuCat the library's catalog. To provide better access to resources, non-depository resources, indexes, and other access tools are acquired.

About the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies

Established in 1954, the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University is the largest separate Africana collection in existence. Its scope is as wide as the continent of Africa itself; its subject matter ranges from art, history, literature, music, and religion to communications, management, and cooking. The Africana collection is a resource for the entire university, and most of Northwestern's disciplinary programs are reflected in the collection. In addition to serving the NU community, the Herskovits Library staff also serves regional, national, and international scholars as well.

About the 16th-19th Century Maps of Africa site

The Site and Project

Melville J. Herskovits established Northwestern University 's Program of African Studies in 1948 (the first of its kind at a major research university in the United States ). The Herskovits Library, formally created as a separate library in 1954, has since its inception collected maps that describe Africa from their earliest appearance to the most current.

Map area coverage includes the continent, regions (particularly North Africa and Algeria ), islands (particularly Madagascar ), and a few city plans. All of these maps are loose items, though many have been excised from published atlases. Some of the highlights of the digital collection are:

a series of Ptolemic maps of North Africa by Ruscelli, ca. 1565; Forlani: Africa , 1562; Mercator: Africa, 1595; Blaeu: Æthiopia ca. 1650 (a Prester John map); Carey: Africa, 1795 (first map of Africa published in the United States), Arrowsmith: Africa, 1802 (notable for its large dimensions, 124 x 145 cm.), a series of Algerian maps published by the French government in the mid-1800's, and maps by other notable cartographers, such as Hondius, Jansson, de Jode, de L'Isle, Ortelius, Sanson, and de Wit.

The maps are initially organized in Library of Congress call number order (except for two sets which are kept together), and are searchable by region, cartographer and date. Search results include each map's catalog record .

The original maps are kept and maintained in the map collection in the Government and Geographic Information and Data Services Department. We welcome questions, comments and suggestions [email address] concerning any aspect of this digital collection, particularly with regards to provenance. Other antique maps from the Africana Library which were not included in this digital collection are either duplicate copies or other editions, such as French government sets covering Algeria .

Technical Information

The maps and text have been digitized at 600dpi using a process of tiling and stitching, and are delivered in JPEG2000 via an Aware Image Server. MARC records for the maps have been transformed into MODS, bundled with PREMIS preservation metadata and MIX technical image metadata, wrapped in METS and ingested into Northwestern's Fedora repository. A collection search based on Lucene provides a custom gateway to this important collection.


University Library
Stu Baker, Digital Library Systems Development
Beth Clausen, Government and Geographic Information and Data Services
Steve DiDomenico, Digital Library Systems Development
David Easterbrook, Africana
Volodymyr Karpenko, Digital Library Systems Development
Virginia Kerr, Preservation
Karen Miller, Catalog Department
Mike Smith, Government and Geographic Information and Data Services
Andrea Stamm, Catalog Department
Claire Stewart, Digital Media Services
Gary Strawn, Catalog Department & Digital Library Systems Development

Academic Technologies
Harlan Wallach, NUAMPS
Stef Foster, NUAMPS