USC Library Mapping GIS Resources

The USC library has a large collection of resources that are available for use. Some are online while others are available only within the library itself. They are working to digitize more holdings and make them available online.

Historic topo mapl

Their aerial photo holdings alone are quite impressive. The following was guest-written by Chris Hare from the Map Library at USC. They have approximately 135,000 photos that were flown by the USDA between 1938 and 1980.  They cover the whole state approximately every 7-10 years throughout that period.  In addition, there are approximately 1000 indexes that are USDA created mosaics made up of approximately one-inch square miniatures of the photos.  Neither the photos nor the indexes have any coordinates associated with them.  The USDA originally distributed the photos to the various County Agricultural Agencies throughout the country.  The counties often kept the photos, however at times they were thrown or given away by the county when a new series was flown.  South Carolina is very fortunate to have created a central depository for the collection starting in the 1960’s.  They are the property of the Map Library, in accordance with an agreement made in the 1960’s between the then current Dean of the Geography Department and the then Head of the State USDA office here in Columbia.   A few other states, such as Georgia, also have a central depository.  North Carolina photos, on the other hand, are still distributed among the various counties.     

This represents the most used collection in the Map Library.  The Map Library is the largest in the state with approximately 250,000 maps and 4,000 atlases, in addition to the photos.  Faculty and students as well as ecologist, historians, commercial developers, state agencies and other researchers from all over the country use the photos.  Replacement value for the photos would be approximately $6,000,000.  However, the National Archives destroyed a great number of the originals because they had become a fire hazard.  The archives did take pictures of those originals before destroying them, but most patrons find their quality unacceptable.  The photos are available to all during Map Library hours, which are 8-5 Monday through Friday.  No appointment is necessary. 

The current procedure for accessing the photos is as follows:

  • A patron comes in to the Map Library and tells us which county or counties they are interested in
  • The indexes are retrieved for the patron from the closed stacks
  • The patron reviews the indexes for each county for the years they are interested in (Each set of county indexes is broken down by year and each year is further broken down into about 5 index sheets approximately 30” x 30”)
  • The patron writes down on a card the county, year, flight number and the picture number for each photo they want to examine
  • The photos are retrieved from the closed stacks and given to the patrons for review in the reading room (Nothing in the Map Library, including the photos, circulates outside the Library)
  • The patrons are allowed to photograph or scan the photos, which they do in most cases (an 8 ½” x 11” scanner is available for free use)
  • The photos and indexes are then refiled for later use

For more information on aerial photos or any of the other collections, either call (803-777 2804) or email, or you can visit the web site at Taylor is another contact at the library involved with the program (803-777-2802). The site is currently in the process of being updated so there may be a few dead links during this process.