Reviewed December 2018
Cathryn Copper, Head, Art & Architecture Library
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Fire Insurance Maps online (FIMo) is a historical map research tool that makes available the largest online collection of full color Sanborn fire insurance maps, as well as real estate atlases, plat books, and other land use maps for North America. While other digitized fire insurance maps have been available for some time, FIMo offers the advantage of full color display, giving researchers the most legible and accurate information on building structures, building construction details, property ownership, and property uses compared to similar digital resources on the market.fimo 02

Additional value comes with the Interactive Map Search and Research Tools. The Interactive Map Search is an attractive feature that allows users to search by address, latitude, longitude, or setting a marker on Google Maps. This user-friendly form of searching gives FIMo users the ability to find property information based on current land use. There is also the option to search by city, county, historical place, and publication name dropdown menus. Another added feature is in the map index overlays. A modern street map overlays all original publication index maps that helps users identify which map sheets are needed and makes referencing historical landmarks remarkably easier. Original reference materials such as publication keys, text indexes, correction records, and notes are included in the record when available.

The creators of FIMo have put in a significant amount of effort to create a product that is an effective and pleasant tool for those researching the history of property. Users have access to customizable options like a My Project Folder, side-by-side image display, and markup tools. There is also an extensive Learning Portal with tool descriptions, information on how to search, and instructions on how to interpret Sanborn maps, to which librarians can refer patrons or in course instruction.fimo 03

All that being said, FIMo’s content is limited to what is available in the public domain so users do not have access to the same breadth of content as they would through ProQuest Digital Sanborn Maps. As maps come into the public domain on an annual basis, FIMo is actively adding them to their library, at a much faster rate than even the Library of Congress’ Sanborn Maps Collection. Within the next eight years, almost all copyright restrictions will be lifted on fire insurance maps, and FIMo will provide online access to them as they become available.

If a purchasing librarian cannot tolerate holding off another eight years for the addition of the value-added features of FIMo, one should augment the product with ProQuest Digital Sanborn Maps for the most complete access to historic fire insurance maps. One can look to public libraries or consortial institutions for this extended access. Graduate or doctoral students in architecture, landscape architecture, or urban studies will benefit most from the combination of these resources. In the question of quality versus quantity, FIMo is rich enough as a standalone resource for undergraduate level research.

Subscription pricing is based on desired access to geographic region maps, whether by state, group of states, or entire United States (most cost-effective), with options for full-resolution downloads, remote access, imagery purchase, and multi-year discounts. Access is provided through IP address with possible options for EZproxy and single-user accounts in the future.fimo 04