Our collection began in 1967 as a component of the Library’s Science and Engineering Library (SEL). As a depository library for the U.S. Geological Survey, the collection then was primarily topographic maps of the U.S.   Gradually the collection grew with maps and aerial photographs and eventually separated from SEL, becoming its own department known as the Map & Imagery Laboratory (MIL). 

With the opening of the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory in 2016 (renamed DREAM Lab in 2022), digital data and GIS services began to be provided through the Collaboratory.  In 2017, MIL's map and aerial photo collection services were moved to Special Research Collections.  In 2020, the Library reinstated the Geospatial Collection as a separate unit, under the Division of Research Resources & Scholarly Communication’s Collection Strategies branch.  This once again created a separate service point in the Library for researchers needing maps and aerial photographs. Digital data and GIS services continue to be provided through the Collaboratory. 

Digital Preservation (NGDA)

Concerned that millions of nationally important digital information resources were in danger of being lost or corrupted, the Library of Congress formed The National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) in 2000. As partners in the project, the university libraries of UCSB and Stanford led the formation of the National Geospatial Digital Archive (NGDA), a collecting network for the archiving of geospatial images and data.  While NGDA no longer functions as a program, the work of UCSB, Stanford, and other UC campuses to collect and archive geospatial images and data continue.

Alexandria Digital Library

Starting in the 1990s, the Alexandria Digital Library offered some of the first online access to collections of geographically referenced materials. The library, headquartered at UCSB Library, was created through a series of grants to the UCSB Library's Map & Imagery Lab and other UCSB departments.  While the infrastructure and discovery portal for ADL no longer exists, all of the data that was served out from ADL systems continues to be accessible in the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory.