Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island owns more than 1,000 rare maps. Some are so rare that their copies are the only ones known to have survived.
Librarians are now cataloging the maps online and moving them into the digital age. Some are brittle; many date back a century or more. Placing them online will give the public (including genealogists!) access to them. According to staffers, half of the collection was unknown to outsiders; many had never been catalogued before.
The university is planning to digitize the collection.
The history of one of the many fascinating maps was detailed in a Boston Globe article:
As prospectors poured west in the 1840s to find riches during the California gold rush, they turned to a valuable map that depicted the gold fields in yellow and the best routes to get there in blue.