NACIS and many volunteers support Natural Earth which is a “public domain map dataset ... featuring tightly integrated vector and raster data, with which you can make a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps with GIS software.”

NASA and CIESIN/Columbia University maintain the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center which “provides access to a wide range of global data, associated documentation, and visualization and analysis tools, and to the community of experts on global data.”

IPUMS “provides census and survey data from around the world integrated across time and space.”  There are nine different databases, including US, international, and health.

Sage Data is a dynamic repository of officially sourced statistical data, which has been standardized, harmonized and given metadata to make the data more findable.

You can download country boundaries and data from Global Administrative Areas in several different formats.

OCHA’s Centre for Humanitarian Data  provides the The Humanitarian Data Exchange which has as its stated goal offering users to “find, share, and use humanitarian data all in one place -- population, health, environmental, and much more.” 

World Resources Institute provides international data sets which are held to traditional academic standards of excellence, including objectivity and rigor.

WorldClim provides global climate data (minimum, mean, and maximum temperature and for precipitation for 1970-2000). 

Atlas of the Biosphere serves global data, largely in grid format, of human impact, land use, ecosystems, and water resources themes.

The FAO GeoNetwork provides Internet access to interactive maps, satellite imagery and related spatial databases maintained by FAO and its partners.

CIESIN at Columbia University provides access to and enhances the use of information worldwide, advancing understanding of human interactions in the environment and serving the needs of science and public and private decision-making.

A-to-Z Maps Online (accessed via Burke Library) includes a GIS Data tab with a number of sub-menus categorizing hundreds of GIS data sources.

The World Bank’s Open Data Initiative includes an online data catalog with data in formats such as Excel.

ESRI provides access to many types of data via the Living Atlas. These layers can be added to your own maps created in any ArcGIS application.  ESRI also hosts ArcGIS Hub, where people can easily find and download data in a variety of formats.

United States

The Department of the Interior maintains a Geospatial One-Stop Portal for federal, state and local geographic data.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee coordinates the sharing of geographic data through an online portal that searches metadata held within the NSDI Clearinghouse network.

The Department of Agriculture Geospatial Data Gateway is an easy-to-use source for environmental and natural resources data, plus additional demographic layers.

ProtectedLands.net showcases examples and other information about the Protected Lands Database of the U.S., published by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Gap Analysis Program.

The USDA Web Soil Survey provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey.

The Census Bureau maintains the Explore Census Data website, from which one can download census data in GIS-readable format, including files and web services at TIGERweb and geodatabases at TIGER/Line Products. For historical census data, visit the National Historical Geographic Information System.

For all topographical maps and data layers, visit the National Map, maintained by the USGS.

The website Union Army Data includes the Historical Urban Ecological (HUE) data set which describes ward-level health and environmental conditions in seven of America’s largest cities--Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York (Manhattan), and Philadelphia--from 1830 to 1930.  This data set includes ward boundaries and streets.

Hamilton’s own Dave Tewksbury provided the extensive and carefully-vetted list of GIS sources for all states on the SERC-Carleton web site.  Thanks, Dave!

New York State

New York State data is maintained by the New York State GIS Clearinghouse.  

Two more recent portals (which are part of the broader Open NY initiative), DATA.NY.GOV serves more as a generalized repository for state agencies (and selected local governments) and HEALTH.DATA.NY.GOV focuses specifically on public health related datasets.

The NYS Office of Planning & Development has a new Geographic Information Gateway featuring not only data sets and maps but stories of how this data is being used, for example, in climate change and shorelines.

The Cornell University Geospatial Information Repository is also a clearinghouse for information about New York State.

The New York State Museum provides a nice collection of datasets for New York State.

Links to GIS Data Provided by Research Universities

UNC GIS Data Finder

MIT GIS Services

Michigan State Libraries

Georgia State University GIS Research Guides

GIS @ University of Chicago

University of Colorado

Cornell University Libraries GIS Data Sources

Tufts University Geospatial Data Repository

Miscellaneous Sources

The American Association of Geographers has lists of databases, maps & atlases, historical gazetteers and GIS.

Free GIS Data is a privately-maintained index to free GIS-ready datasets “from arctic permafrost maps to gridded population data.”  This is a very comprehensive resource!

OpenGeoPortal.org is a “collaboratively developed, open source, federated web application to rapidly discover, preview, and retrieve geospatial data from multiple repositories.”

Neat trick at Wikipedia: in the right-hand column, click the coordinates under the locator map to see a page of available data sources.

PolicyMap is a subscription service that offers "easy-to-use online mapping with data on demographics, real estate, health, jobs and more in communities across the US."

The Pew Research Center collects survey data on a wide variety of topics.

Last updated: July 12, 2024


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