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Geography and Map Division



Thematic Maps and Atlases
arrow graphicStatistical Data
Landownership Maps and Atlases
Land Use Maps
Panoramic Maps or Birds'-Eye Views
Pictorial Maps
Graphic Images on Maps





Statistical Data
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“Uterine Cancer Rates in South Dakota, by County, 1953-1987.” The State Cancer Control Map and Data Program of the National Cancer Institute. Geography and Map Division.

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Most modern thematic maps and atlases rely heavily on statistical data. The Geography and Map Division has several kinds of data resources in its collections with access to additional material available online. For example, recent census data can be found at the site for the U.S. Census Bureau. Historical statistical data are also available. Beginning in 1870, three statistical atlases were produced to illustrate the results of the decennial censuses, all three of which are now available in their entirety on the American Memory Web site Map Collections.

The Statistical Atlas of the United States Based on the Results of the Ninth Census, 1870, edited by Francis A. Walker (New York: Julius Bien, 1874; G1201.G1 U53 1874), was the first attempt by the Census Office to prepare a cartographic census summary. Unfortunately, only one plate is devoted to population distribution by sex. For the 1880 census, a summary is available in Scribner's Statistical Atlas of the United States (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1883; G1201.G1 H4 1883), while a more complete record is available for the 1890 census in Statistical Atlas of the United States, Based upon the Results of the Eleventh Census, edited by Henry Gannet (Washington: GPO, 1898; G1201.G1 U53 1898). The latter includes graphs and tables showing age and sex percentages and detailed information on the African American population. Subsequent atlases based on census material were published for the data gathered in 1900, 1910, and 1920.

The most recent census material is considerably more detailed. The Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) System, developed for the 1990 census and also used in 2000, provides a single, fully automated source from which data and cartographic products related to either census can be derived. While the Geography and Map Division holds extensive census material, including census tracts and all of the digital data stored in the TIGER files. The official Federal Depository for all census material, however, is in the Serial and Government Publications Division.

Some of the publications based on this material, both in textual and cartographic formats, show rates of change between censuses over time. The Atlas of the 1990 Census (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1992; G1201.E2 M3 1992) by Mark T. Mattson contains population pyramids by age and sex for 1970, 1980, and 1989; for white, African American, and other races by age and sex for 1989; state populations by gender; births, abortions, and infant mortality by state; and the composition of households, including those with married couples and households headed by females.

Statistical data sets on CD-ROMs are sometimes published in conjunction with atlases. An example is the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, 1998 (Chicago: American Hospital Publishing, 1998; G1201.E5 D3 1998), which shows the geographic distribution of health services throughout the United States, including information on mammography and breast-sparing surgery, based on information supplied by health care organizations and the U.S. Census. These kinds of publications allow users to incorporate the data sets into their own research projects.

Other atlases based on census data that are directly related to women's health care issues are U.S. Cancer Mortality Rates and Trends 1950-1979, vol. 4, Maps (Washington: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1983; G1201.E51 U44 1983), and The Atlas of U.S. Cancer Mortality among Nonwhites: 1950-1980 (Bethesda, Md.: NIH; uncataloged). The State Cancer Control Map and Data Program of the National Cancer Institute, using data from 1953 to 1987, is a GIS software package and data developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It produces customized maps based on cancer rates for males and females for each state down to the county level. Fortunately the data has been updated and maps can be made utilizing online resources such as Cancer Mortality Maps and Graphs (see Geography and Map External Sites). Another resource is The National Atlas (see Geography and Map External Sites. After accessing this site, indicate “Map Layers Warehouse” and locate “Cancer Mortality Information.” The latter site can also be used to analyze and interpret other kinds of census data from 1980, 1990, and 2000.

Recent data can be analyzed by using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) packages that are in G&M to cartographically illustrate changing demographic and spatial patterns. Many data and software packages are available to produce colorful and easily interpreted maps for the last decades of the twentieth century. GIS packages in the Library of Congress can be found under a keyword search for “geographical information systems.” The full version of the cataloging record specifies the hardware capacity needed to run each program and its format. Additional data sets are accessible as “digital data” using a keyword search. Maps that have been produced through the use of GIS can be found in the catalog under the keyword “maps-digital.”

Unfortunately few historians are sufficiently trained in GIS methodology and geographic concepts to use many of the new software packages. Those scholars who do wish to take advantage of the more sophisticated tools for geographic analysis and presentation may have to seek collaborators with the necessary skills to map the results of their research. Joni Seager's attractive and insightful maps are based on her extensive research into data sources, but even she fully acknowledges the assistance of skilled cartographers in producing her impressive atlas. (See discussion and illustration in Thematic Maps and Atlases section.)

A major limitation on the usefulness of any kind of statistical data is that with the exception of the early Census Bureau atlases and the Routledge historical atlas, most publications contain only recent information. Not only is there a shortage of similar retrospective data for comparison, but if it exists at all, it frequently has been gathered in a variety of ways, making comparisons difficult if not impossible. Generally, retrospective information must be compiled from a variety of sources and modified in order to make statistical analyses valid, which is time consuming and often very difficult. It remains the task of historians, however, to identify and collect relevant information about the past that can be used to re-create historic landscapes and to provide meaningful analysis of changing patterns over time.

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