The history of NOAA is more than names and dates: it is about the people, places, and events that have helped to shape NOAA into the agency that it is today. One way to understand and appreciate NOAA's history is to explore the relics of those who came before us. In celebration of our 200th anniversary, NOAA staff have assembled several online collections to help bring our stories to life.

The Collections featured here are simple presentations of five to 20 objects that have significance in marine history, research, human/sea interactions, or human understanding of the sea. Each collection illustrates an underlying theme or principle, such as the evolution of technology, which ties all the objects in the collection together.

The collections span many time periods, cover many topics, and provide just a hint of the rich, vast holdings of an organization with a 200-year legacy...

An Angular Point of View: A Photo Collection Illustrating the History of Theodolites at the National Geodetic Survey
Used to measure horizontal and vertical angles, the theodolite remained the backbone of geodetic surveys from the 1800s until the early 1980s. This collection of theodolites tells the story of the development and usage of the instrument, including some of the challenges faced by field parties, from the first fieldwork of Survey of the Coast Superintendent Ferdinand Hassler until today.

Artifacts from the USS Monitor Collection: Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
On December 31, 1862, the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The Monitor wreck site was designated the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in 1975, to protect and preserve the remains of what has been called the most significant ship in American history. This collection showcases artifacts collected from the Monitor. These artifacts illustrate the technological advancements of the Monitor and what life was like for the crew on board this historic vessel. The artifacts also remind us of the careful and important work required to recover, preserve, and protect our nation's cultural resources.

Arts and Crafts: A Photo Collection Relating Past and Present at the National Geodetic Survey
They say a picture is worth a thousand words...this collection of images compares the surveying tools and techniques of days gone by to those used in much more recent times, spinning two marvelous tales. One tale explores the changing methods for recording information—from intricate, hand-drawn sketches in a surveyor's notebook to pixel-driven photographs captured on a digital camera and posted on a Web site. The second story lies not in how the image was produced, but rather in the information depicted in the image. This is a tale of how the craft of surveying—an art to which the Naitonal Geodetic Survey has been dedicated for 200 years—has evolved.

Going the Distance: A Photo Collection Illustrating the History of Distance Measurement Tools at the National Geodetic Survey
This collection of images traces the evolution of tools used to make extremely accurate distance measurements, from steel bars used in the 1800s to modern Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment used today. Underlying this series of images are tales reflecting the brilliance, inventiveness, and determination of the men who created and used each instrument.

Historical Nautical Charts: New York Harbor
This collection showcases nautical charts of New York Harbor, spanning 1845 to 2006. These charts illustrate how, as development in the waters around New York City changed over time, the amounts and types of information presented on the charts also changed. The collection also explores how technology used to create nautical charts has evolved, from early charts made from hand-engraved copper plates to modern digital charts based on GPS technology.

Marking the Surveys—NOAA's Commemorative Marks
NGS, often in partnership with other organizations, produced and set the commemorative marks in this online collection. Most of the marks are one-of-a-kind, or one-of-a-series, disks specially manufactured to mark or celebrate a particular occasion. Commemorative marks are also used for positioning needs relative to a local area and become part of the National Spatial Reference System.

NOAA's Collection of Rare 19th Century Oceanography Books
This collection of books from the NOAA Central Library Rare Book Room captures the spirit and accomplishments of the formative years of oceanography. Its volumes, published between 1839 and 1903, exude the excitement and fascination of ocean discovery in the 19th century and evoke a sense of awe at the power and majesty of the sea. Many of the authors are among the "founding fathers" of modern oceanography.

Survey Towers: Raising the Level of the Survey
This collection of photos and drawings of survey towers traces the evolution of the towers used by Coast and Geodetic Survey surveyors from the mid-1800s through the 1970s to obtain the clear lines-of-sight needed to conduct surveys. The towers represent important tools in surveying our nation and reflect the determination of surveyors dedicated to getting the job tree or mountain was enough to stop these men from completing the surveys that today are the backbone of our nation's spatial reference framework.