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Aerial Photographs: Introduction

What are aerial photographs?

Photographs and other images taken from the air and space show landforms, vegetation, resources, and cultural features such as buildings. Images taken at different times can be used to study changes in vegetation, landscape, and built environment.


The Maps Unit of Special Collections at the Richard J. Daley Library has an extensive collection of print aerial photographs of Chicago and the surrounding counties. Publicly available are City of Chicago Department of Development and Planning 1968, 1973, and 1994 series, as well as the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC) 1980, 1990, and 2001 series. Other years in the collection may be accessed by contacting Maps Unit staff.

Also available are digital files of 2002 and 2005 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) orthographic aerials and 2004, 2005, and 2006 National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) images. These require that you contact the Maps Unit and arrange an appointment for copying the files.

Aerial photographs held by the Maps Unit are accessible by request during Special Collections hours. The online tools listed in this guide may be used to determine the map(s) needed prior to scheduling a visit.

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