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 efforts on scanning, improving metadata for, and permanently preserving its vast collection of more than 24,200 historical aerial photographs. This collection spans the 1930s – 1990s and includes:

Aerial photograph:1952 – Ocean City Inlet, Worcester County, MD
Aerial photograph
1952 – Ocean City Inlet, Worcester County, MD
  • 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 photo index maps, but posted many of these series online for public access via their websites. Here are links to the aerial photography 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.

MGS NGGDPP Grant Status:

Current Grant

MGS submitted its eighth NGGDPP grant application in March 2015, and was notified in June 2015 that the proposal was fully funded. The current FY2015 NGGDPP grant cycle runs from September 1, 2015 – August 31, 2016. Grant tasks include scanning ~1,500 county-based aerial photographs from the 1980s and 1990s, performing a thorough QA/QC of internal aerial photograph database records, purchasing appropriate archival boxes, and re-housing and transferring ~5,000 aerial photographs to MSA for permanent storage.

Upcoming Grant

MGS submitted its ninth NGGDPP grant application in February 2016, and was notified in May 2016 that the proposal was fully funded. The upcoming FY2016 NGGDPP grant cycle will run from September 1, 2016 – August 31, 2017. Grant tasks will focus on two of MGS’s most used collections: 1) historical aerial photograph collection and 2) rock core collection. Grant work will include the following tasks:

Air Photo Collection

  1. Scan the remaining ~1,750 photos dating from the 1940s, 1950s and 1970s that have not yet been scanned by MGS, its data preservation partners, or USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center;
  2. Perform additional QA/QC of internal aerial photograph database records;
  3. Upload updated metadata records to ScienceBase if warranted;
  4. Re-house an additional ~5,000 photos into archival boxes; and
  5. Transfer these photographs to MSA for permanent storage.

Rock Core Collection

  1. Perform a detailed inventory of the rock core collection;
  2. Design/create an internal rock core database;
  3. Populate this database with detailed metadata records for the rock cores;
  4. Submit these metadata records to ScienceBase; and
  5. Assess the overall preservation needs of the rock core collection and create a draft re-organization, labeling, and long-term storage plan.

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.

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,