Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Maryland Geological Survey – Data Preservation Efforts

Project Details


Maryland Geological Survey (MGS) shares the concerns of other organizations engaged in geological research – that geoscience collections and data are valuable in their own right, beyond the lifetime of the projects during which they are collected or acquired, and that special efforts are required to preserve them.

To that end, MGS has applied for and received 9 successive U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP) grants to inventory its collections/data sets and to itemize its permanent collections. These collections include both physical collections (rock samples, sediment cores, etc.) and derived collections (reports, maps, aerial photographs, seismic data, etc.). General information about the NGGDPP can be found here: .

The bulk of MGS’s work to date has included performing a general inventory of collections, creating detailed metadata records for items in certain collections, and (where applicable) digitizing data and making it available online. A list of the collections for which MGS has submitted metadata to the USGS ScienceBase Catalog can be found here: .

MGS also produced a Long-Range Data Preservation Plan and established a Data Preservation Advisory Panel (DPAP) composed of members of the larger geoscience community, as well as others with expertise in data preservation. From its inception, the DPAP has fostered data preservation at MGS, helping to set priorities and resolve thorny questions, endorsing proposals, and forming partnerships in applying for preservation-related grants.

Current Focus:

With the help of NGGDPP funding, MGS is currently focusing its preservation efforts on two separate collections: 1) the Aerial Photograph Collection; and 2) the Rock Core Collection. Here is a brief overview of both collections.

Aerial Photograph Collection

Aerial photograph:1952 – Ocean City Inlet, Worcester County, MD
Aerial photograph
1952 – Ocean City Inlet, Worcester County, MD

The MGS Aerial Photograph Collection comprises ~ 24,300 photographs spanning the 1930s – 1990s and includes the following components:

  • county-based, black-and-white aerial photographs (MD)
  • black-and-white photographic enlargements of Fenwick and Assateague Islands (MD)
  • black-and-white photographic enlargements of the Rockville-Laurel area of Montgomery County (MD)
  • black-and-white aerial photograph index maps (MD)
  • quadrangle-based, black-and-white aerial photographs (MD)
  • high-altitude, black-and-white aerial photographs (MD, PA, VA, WV)
  • high altitude, infrared aerial photographs (MD, VA)
  • quadrangle-based, infrared aerial photographs (MD)
  • black-and-white, Washington, DC and vicinity aerial photographs (Washington, DC, MD, VA)
  • black-and-white, USGS National Water Information System (NWIS) well-related aerial photographs (MD)

MGS’s ultimate objective is to make the digital scans of these aerial photographs available online and to the public. This is a large task. Thankfully, several DPAP partners - Maryland State Archives (MSA) and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Eisenhower Library – have not only helped scan aerial photos and aerial photograph index maps, but posted many of these series online for public access via their websites. Here are links to the aerial photograph series that are currently available online:

The Johns Hopkins University - JScholarship Website

Maryland State Archives – Guide to Government Records Website

  • 1930s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s County-wide Aerial Photo Index Maps
  • 1950s and 1960s Worcester County Aerial Photo Index Maps & Associated Aerial Photographs
  • 1960s and 1970s Montgomery County Photographic Enlargements

    * Click on “View all series for MARYLAND GEOLOGICAL SURVEY” at the top of the page and scroll down to find the desired county.

Rock Core Collection

The MGS Rock Core Collection consists of approximately 30+ rock cores obtained from bore holes drilled throughout Maryland. The cores are currently stored in ~100 wooden and cardboard boxes of varying condition. Many of these cores are referenced in published MGS reports. Although a very general inventory was performed on this collection in 2008, detailed metadata records were never created and an internal MGS catalog (database) of core information, cataloging each individual core, does not currently exist.

MGS NGGDPP Grant Status:

Current Grant

MGS submitted its ninth NGGDPP grant application in February 2016, and was notified in May 2016 that the proposal was fully funded. The current FY2016 NGGDPP grant cycle runs from September 1, 2016 – August 31, 2017 and funds preservation activities for both the Aerial Photograph Collection and the Rock Core Collection. These tasks specifically include:

Aerial Photograph Collection:

  • Scan ~1,750 county-based aerial photographs from the 1930s, 1950s, and 1970s;
  • Perform a thorough QA/QC of ~5,000 internal database records for county-based photographs from the 1950s – 1970s;
  • Box up ~5,000 county-based photographs from the 1950s – 1970s and transfer them to MSA for permanent storage; and
  • Upload updated metadata for the county-based photographs to ScienceBase.

Rock Core Collection

  • Create rock core collection database;
  • Perform a detailed inventory of the rock core collection and populate the internal database with metadata records;
  • Submit metadata records to ScienceBase; and
  • Create a draft re-oganization, labeling, and long-term storage plan for the collection.

Upcoming Grant

MGS submitted its tenth NGGDPP grant application in January 2017. MGS should be notified about potential funding in May 2017. Proposed grant tasks focus on the continued preservation of the Aerial Photograph Collection, and the start of the preservation of the Rock Cuttings Collection.

Acknowledgements & Funding:

This work has been funded by successive grants awarded in 2008-2016 by the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program.

MGS wishes to thank the NGGDPP, as well as members of the DPAP committee, for fostering data preservation efforts at the Survey. MGS is extremely grateful to MSA and JHU for their assistance in scanning multiple maps, aerial photographs, and publications and making many of these items available online via their websites.

Aerial Photograph Inquiries:

To request digital scans of our county-based aerial photographs, please first view the County-Based Aerial Photograph Index Maps to determine the flight/frame numbers in your area of interest. Digital scans of the index maps are available on MSA’s Guide to Government Records website here: (click on “View all series for MARYLAND GEOLOGICAL SURVEY” at the top of the page and scroll down to find the desired county).

Then, contact any of the MGS staff listed below to request digital scans of the individual frames. Note that the Aerial Photograph Collection does not contain all of the individual frames that comprise the index maps; as such, we may not be able to fulfill your entire request.

More Information

For more information regarding the ongoing data preservation efforts at MGS, please contact:
Ms. Katie Knippler – 410-554-5543,
Mr. Dale Shelton – 410-554-5505,
Ms. Heather Quinn – 410-554-5522,