At the outset, the library was responsible for the general cartographic collections necessary for academic geographical work. At present, however, all the attention is on maps of Alsace, from every period. The general collection contains 40 000 items, and has stopped growing, except for the purchase of general atlases and works on the history of cartography. The Alsace-related collection contains about 4 000 items, the oldest of which date back to the sixteenth century. These maps are gradually being put online in the virtual library on the Internet (see maps of Alsace). Joint work has been carried out on the maps of the Rhine at the time of the work to straighten it, in conjunction with the German and Swiss institutions in EUCOR, and this has resulted in a database that can be consulted freely; it can be found by clicking on the tab “maps of the upper Rhine”.
The wealth of the BNU's collections of manuscript maps has justified the launch of a very extensive operation to digitise these documents, which are often very fragile and seriously damaged; in partnership with the Maison Interuniversitaire des Sciences de l'Homme Alsace (MISHA), the CNRS and the Marc Bloch University.
Cartographic documents may be consulted in the Joffre Reading Room by appointment, from Monday to Friday. Readers should request the works via the Internet from outside the library, or using the BNU's computerised catalogue.