The UCSB Library's collection of aerial photography is the largest known such collection in an academic library. MIL's collection dates back to the 1920s, and we can generally provide one photograph per decade for anywhere in California. Outside of California, we have unique collections that include areas of China, Central Asia, Africa, and the Pacific islands.
All requests to use our department's materials can be made prior to your visit using your Special Collections Research Account. Please visit our 'Planning Your Research' page, especially our hours page, for additional information to avoid any delays or inconveniences before visiting our research department.
Traditional aerial photography is generally created using a large-format camera mounted on the underside of a fixed-wing aircraft. The resulting negatives reveal a straight-down (vertical) view of the landscape. Photographs are taken sequentially at set intervals, often with a significant amount of overlap. When two images overlap at least 60%, a stereoscopic, or 3D, view is created. The overwhelming majority of our aerial photographs fall into this category.
An individual set of photographs is referred to as a flight or a mission. A flight is often just that: a single takeoff and landing. Some flights are created over the course of a few days or, less frequently, over the course of a season. On very rare occasions, a flight may refer to a multi-year project (for example, our NAPP flights). A flight may contain a single photograph or tens-of-thousands. MIL has more than 4,500 flights which add up to more than 2.4 million individual images.
- Significant holdings include the Fairchild Aerial Surveys and Santa Barbara Flood Control District collections.
- Aerial Photography Tools include our FrameFinder web map app, AP Flights catalog, lists of frequently requested photos for Northern and Southern California, and a variety of finding aids that will help you to identify photographs to help you with your work. All imagery is available for inspection Special Research Collections, but appointments are required for detailed research. This service is free to UCSB researchers and students.
- Learn to identify relevant flights
- Individual flights are described by Indexes.