Edwin J. Foscue (1900 - 1972) was chairman of the Geography Department (now contained within the Geology Department) at SMU from 1923 to 1965. A distinguished veteran of the Second World War, Dr. Foscue founded the map library and was instrumental in having SMU designated as a depository for the U.S. Army Mapping Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Geodetic Survey.
As a geographic expert with the Army Map Service (a sub-agency under the Corps of Engineers) during World War II, Dr. Edwin J. Foscue participated in one of the most significant intelligence campaigns of that conflict — namely, the production of state-of-the-art mapping for nearly every region of the world, the almost constant revision of existing mapping, and the rapid deployment of these maps to the our military forces abroad. The sheer number of maps produced for the war effort, coupled with the large quantity of cartographic information captured by advancing Allied Forces, presented the Army Map Service with a problem of surplus by the war's end.
Dr. Foscue and several of his colleagues successfully lobbied the Army not only to donate these maps to academic institutions at strategic locations throughout the United States, but also to establish a depository program in order to best maintain these collections. Thus, Southern Methodist University was able to acquire approximately 27,000 captured German and Japanese maps, and, until the end of the Army Map Service's depository program in 1954, to accrue over 54,000 maps.
Dr. Foscue’s life-long interest in maps and the many forms of information that they can convey continues to inspire visitors to the collections named in his honor.
The map library was founded in 1942. In 1948, the University hired its first map librarian, Dorothy Bruton, succeeded by Eleanor Maclay, author of the first official history of the collection itself ("Southern Methodist University Map Library", 1957).
Named in honor of Dr. Foscue, SMU's Map Library is one of the preeminent collections of cartographic resources in the American Southwest. The library's current holdings include more than 260,000 individual maps, nautical charts, and aeronautical charts; approximately 3,000 aerial photographs and remote sensing images; more than 1,200 Soil Survey publications; several globes, including one of the moon; and over 1,250 atlases.
The collection continues to grow in support of key disciplines including geology, archaeology and anthropology, history, sociology, political science, and environmental science. Recent major acquisitions include the ARCO Petroleum Collection (over 3,000 maps and LANDSAT images, chiefly international in coverage). Another important collection includes 1930’s aerial photographs of Dallas, Collin and Denton Counties. Those of the City of Dallas have been digitized and analyzed as part of the CUL Digital Collections- Dallas Historical Aerial Photographs.