Sanborn Fire Insurance Map web index of Colorado Springs in 1909.
Published: May 4, 2020

Buddy Collins, a graduating senior in the Department of Geography and this year’s Friends of the Libraries Fellow, has spent the last few months improving access and discovery to the Earth Sciences & Map Library’s Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection. His work creating web map indexes for this important collection will enable easy access to users to conduct environmental site assessments, architectural projects, urban history, genealogy work and more. 

Buddy Collins is graduating with a bachelor's in Geography.Surveyor Daniel Alfred Sanborn created the original maps to depict the size, shape and construction of buildings, as well as street names, property boundaries and building use. The CU Boulder Map Library has the most complete collection of Sanborn maps of Colorado outside of the Library of Congress. The Map Library’s collection includes print maps from the years 1883 to 1937, of approximately 560 Colorado cities, and a digital collection of maps from 1883 through 1922 that detail 79 principal cities in 52 Colorado counties. 

“As I have worked with these maps, I have really liked seeing how Colorado cities have changed from the 19th to the 20th century,” Friends of the Libraries fellow Collins said. “I find it interesting to see how some of these towns grew so rapidly.” 

With this project, Collins was tasked with creating GIS indexes of the print index maps by digitizing them into data, essentially tracing them in a GIS system. Then, he joined the maps’ metadata with the new GIS data so users could click and have the individual map’s metadata and links appear in a clickable popup. Next, using a template from his fellowship mentor Phil White, Earth Sciences and Environment librarian, Collins built all of the different web maps. Collins said he has gained valuable experience in programming languages such as JavaScript, HTML and CSS. White said Collins was able to apply critical skills acquired through coursework to streamline workflows for creating these indexes. 

“Buddy has been a great Fellow to work with,” White said. “He has contributed a meaningful project to the Earth Sciences & Map Library and developed his skills in GIS, data management and project management. His work indexing the Sanborn Collection improves access and discovery of this important collection. I’ve been so impressed with Buddy’s commitment to this project. He took ownership of the work and solved problems independently. I’ll certainly miss working with him.”

Collins is a geographic information student with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where he creates online maps. After graduation, Collins hopes to go on to work that will allow him to explore his passion for cartography. 

The Friends of the Libraries Undergraduate Student Fellowship introduces undergraduates to careers in academic librarianship, allowing students to work closely with a Libraries mentor. The fellowship receives generous support from the Friends of the Libraries Fund.