Exploring Maps Online Part 1: Major Sources of Digital Maps of Toronto

July 11, 2012 | Richard

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This guide, in three parts, is meant to help researchers find digital maps of Toronto and other Canadian Cities. All collections include at least some maps in formats viewable on Toronto Public Library computers. See part three for a list of Additional Sources for Toronto digital map collections with limited access or format types incompatible with TPL computers.

Recent advances in technology have supported the development of geographic information systems (GIS), which are available through many of the following sources. GIS make it easy to represent geospatial datasets as maps and are typically interactive.

Toronto Public Library Digital Archive

Use this site to find over 600 digitized maps of Toronto ranging in date from 1788 to 1913. The collection includes base maps, city planning maps, fire insurance plans, historic and waterfront maps. All maps are in JPEG format.


Search tips
: On the right-hand side of the page is the option to Browse by Subjects. Select Toronto. On the left-hand side is the option to further narrow results by Subject. Select Maps. These can be sorted further by neighbourhood name or map type (e.g., fire insurance). 

Toronto Public Library Map of Neighbourhood Historical Resources

This interactive neighbourhood map links you to books and digitized maps and photos in the Toronto Public Library’s local history collections.

City of Toronto 

Use this site to find up-to-date maps of Toronto on a variety of topics, such as city planning, land use & zoning, parks & recreation, roads & transportation, and wards & electoral boundaries. The site also offers a number of GIS tools that map all of the above topics as well as social trends and municipal services.  See maps by topic for direct links to maps not listed on the Toronto Maps page.

Don Valley Historical Mapping Project

This resource’s collection includes over 100 maps of Toronto and the Don River Valley watershed ranging from 1780 to 1962 in a variety of types and topics, including city planning, environment & conservation, fire insurance plans, historic, topographic and waterfront.  These images are available to view in JPEG or TIF format. The project has also compiled a number of geospatial datasets which are presented in formats that are incompatible with TPL computers. 

Elections Canada and Elections Ontario

These sites provide maps of federal and provincial electoral districts in Toronto.


Environment Canada – Environmental Indicators

The site provides local and regional environmental indicators using multiple accessible map and data formats.

The Atlas of Canada 

Use this site to find Toporama, a GIS map of Canada that includes a detailed map of Toronto. Available geospatial datasets cover topics such as environment & conservation, municipal services, roads & transportation, topography and waterfront. The map archives contain a small number of historical maps of Toronto.

BlogTO Neighbourhood Guides

This site maps the restaurants and stores voted “best in Toronto” in each of Toronto’s neighbourhoods.

The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

This site catalogues over one million images of the Earth from space. An interactive map search function allows users to focus in on any area of the Earth they choose. There are thousands of pictures of Canadian cities captured from space. 

Library and Archives Canada - Maps, Charts and Architectural Plans 

There are around 200 digital maps of Toronto ranging in date from 1788 to 1933. Map collection covers a variety of types and topics including aerial photographs, base maps, city planning, fire insurance plans, historic, land use & zoning, municipal services, parks & recreation, roads & transportation, and waterfront. Most digital maps are easily viewable in PDF format.


Search tips: All records in the Maps, Chart and Plans collection are accessible using the Archives Search tool. Search for Toronto using the Title Keyword search option to eliminate maps published in Toronto. Beside Type of material select maps and cartographic material. Search for York and NOT New to eliminate maps published in New York. The results of these searches can be narrowed to display only maps that are available online.

University of Toronto Map & Data Library 

Use this site to find hundreds of maps of Toronto ranging in date from 1780 to 1990. Maps in this collection contain the following types and topics: aerial photographs, base maps, city planning, historic, land use & zoning, roads & transportation, topographical and waterfront. There are maps of Toronto neighbourhoods and suburbs. Much of the collection is taken from the Don Valley Historical Mapping Project. Map formats vary but may include ZOOMIFY, PDF, JPEG, JPEG 2000, ECW, and TIF. Some are ZIP files which are inaccessible on a TPL computer.  Some maps and most of the large GIS data inventory of Toronto materials are restricted to University of Toronto students and faculty.

. . . next . . . Exploring Maps Online Part 2: Sources of Digital Maps of Toronto by Type
. . . then . . . Exploring Maps Online Part 3: Major Sources of Digital Maps of Canadian Cities

revised: July 2012/HSS/rm-kw