52 for 150: What’s So Special About Your Library’s Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps?

It’s hot. It’s summer. Sticking with a heat theme, week 34 of our Kansas sesquicentennial video series is dedicated to our collection of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.

Founded in 1866, the Sanborn Company has been mapping buildings and chronicling the history of approximately 12,000 American cities and towns. “Rich with valuable and detailed information, our maps, originally created as a product to help fire insurance companies assess the potential risks involved in underwriting policies, have developed into a tool with myriad uses for multiple industries.” [1]

Simply put, these large-scale maps may be used to estimate the date of construction for a home, the type of construction (frame, brick, etc.), how many stories the building had, whether there were any other structures on the property, property boundaries and the use of the structure.


About 52 for 150

Every object has a story, and stories build history. To celebrate 150 years of Kansas statehood we’re featuring 52 objects (or collections of related objects)—something new each week throughout the year—from the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library’s 130-year-old special, and permanent collections, that represent our collective state history and cultural diversity.

Our collections are available for teachers, students, researchers and general interest, and we hope this online video program will provide insight into what’s so “special” about Special Collections. Your library’s commitment to collecting art and preserving local history makes it possible for users today and in the future to have immediate access to invaluable research material and cultural artifacts.

To see our collection of Sanborn maps, call or stop by the Topeka Room (785-580-4510) on the Library’s second floor. We’re located at the top of the stairs on your left.

[1] http://www.sanborn.com/products/fire_insurance_maps.asp


Heather Kearns

I've been the Sabatini Gallery's associate curator since 2004 and social media coordinator since 2008. My passion is helping people “get“ art, and by that I mean creating an environment both in-house and online which fosters a greater understanding, confidence, and sense of enjoyment from the art experience. Art should be easy to access and available to everyone. I take helping people very seriously.