“Geologic maps are valuable in many ways. They show the areas within which coal, iron, and other useful minerals occur, the limits of the artesian basins, the course of metalliferous veins, and many other things needful to the development of a region.” (U.S. Geological Survey, 1904).
When the U.S. Geological Survey was established in 1879, the main purpose of the Survey was defined by law to be the making of a geologic map of the United States, in order to assess and classify the Nation’s geological structure and natural resources. Since that time, the Nation’s needs for geologic information have grown much more diverse to include, for example, natural and environmental hazards, and human health and safety. At the same time, the need to provide this information to the public quickly and efficiently has become imperative.
In 1992 the Geologic Mapping Act was enacted by Congress. This Act requires the USGS and the state geological surveys (represented by the Association of American State Geologists) to build a “national archive” of standardized geoscience map information, the National Geologic Map Database. As the Act intended, the NGMDB has long served the public’s need for quick access to publications, data, and information about the Nation’s geology.
Since the NGMDB website debut in 1996, changes in technology and user expectations have been dramatic. The geologic map database primary partners, the USGS and AASG, are pleased to launch a newly redesigned system that is a significant leap forward in terms of the technology and the information now available to the public. The new system improves the integration of publication citations, stratigraphic nomenclature, downloadable content, and unpublished source information, thereby greatly improving public access to this archive of the Nation’s geologic knowledge.
A significant feature of new site is “MapView” – a visually compelling new interface that uses the latest technology to seamlessly portray the Nation’s geologic maps published by the USGS, the state geological surveys, and many others. These maps, now available through the NGMDB in several popular and easy-to-use formats, can be viewed in detail and downloaded from the various publishers.
This is the first stage in a complete redesign of the NGMDB. All other aspects of the site will be addressed in the months ahead. While the redesign will mark a significant milestone for the geologic map database, the project’s main focus will continue undeterred – that is, to make the NGMDB even more comprehensive and useful to the public.