SubjectsPlus: GIS Data and Maps

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Access, use, and reproduction of the electronic resources made available through the Grinnell College Libraries are governed by license agreements with publishers which may impose greater restrictions on use than does copyright law. The user is responsible for observing these agreements as well as the copyright laws of the United States (Title 17, United States Code), including the fair use guidelines that protect scholarship and research.

When accessing subscription databases from off-campus, you will be asked to sign in using your campus username and password. If you have any problems accessing library resources from off campus, please contact Julia Bauder or Sheryl Bissen.


Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970 (Iowa) Restricted Resource

Sanborn fire-insurance maps are large-scale plans used to estimate the potential risk for urban structures, and include information such as outlines of buildings; the size, shape, and construction materials used; and location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, property boundaries, house and block numbers, and various other data. They are useful for historians, architects, geographers, genealogists, environmentalists, and anyone who wants to learn about the history and development of Iowa municipalities.

General Sources - U.S.

Extensive source of federal, state and local geographic data for the United States.

Iowa Geographic Map Server

Complete coverage of Iowa in aerial orthophotos, land use/land cover maps, DEMs, historical data.

USGS Seamless Data Warehouse

High-quality, geospatial data from the USGS. Mostly US data, some international data. Transportation, boundary files, hydrography, orthoimagery, land cover, elevation. Interactive map server and downloadable data.

National Atlas

U.S. biology, geology, demography, environmental, water and much more. Interactive map server and downloadable data.

Searchable catalog of data, including shapefiles and other geographic data, available from the U.S. federal government.


The National Historical Geographic Information System. Provides "aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2000." Free registration required.

American Factfinder

Statistics and aggregate data from the U.S. Decennial Census, American Community Survey, Puerto Rico Community Survey, Annual Population Estimates, Economic Census, and Annual Economic Surveys. Data for geographic areas, sometimes down to the block level, can be downloaded in CSV or XLS formats.

General Sources - World

ArcGIS Online

ESRI's data clearinghouse and map services; contains mostly base data; you can also link to this data directly through ArcCatalog.

Canada GeoGratis

Free, downloadable Canadian GIS data.

CloudMade Data

Spatial data in a variety of formats from OpenStreetMap.

David Rumsey Map Collection

Database of high-resolution historical maps, some of which are georeferenced.


Search and download satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and other products from the USGS. Primarily raster layers.

GIS Data Depot

Links to lots of different spatial data sources; follow links to global, international, national, state, and local-level data sources.

GoGeo GIS Database

Interactive map server to locate spatial data sources; follow links to global, international, national, state, and local-level data sources. Good for Great Britain and includes international links.

International GIS Data Sources

A directory from Cornell University library.

Websites for Digital GIS Data

From Stanford University. Links to other GIS data sources.


Download shapefiles for every country in the world. Available layers include administrative boundaries, inland water, roads, railroads, elevation, land cover, population, and climate. Georeferencing gazetteers are also available.

ICPSR Restricted Resource

The Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) maintains and provides access to the world's largest archive of raw data sets in the social sciences. Before downloading data, you will be prompted to create a MyData account. You must be on campus to create this account. As long as you log in to your MyData account from an on-campus computer at least every 6 months, you will also be able to download data while you are off campus.

Demographic/Population - U.S.

Census Bureau Geography

Geographic information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Includes the TIGER files.

National Center for Health Statistics

Maintained by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Much data is available at the state and county level. Data is in spreadsheets, not GIS layers.

Social Explorer Restricted Resource

Pre-processed, searchable, and mappable demographic data.

Grinnell College Libraries Guide to Finding Statistics and Data Sets

Many more sources for geospatial data about the United States can be found here.

Demographic/Population - World

Gridded Population of the World

Estimates of global population and other socioeconomic variables at a fine spatial scale.


Unique maps of socioeconomic variables at global scale.

Economic Data - World


Georeferenced data on international aid projects, with a focus on projects funded by the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

Environment and Climate

Global Change Master Directory

Over 25,000 data sets on the environment and Earth science, curated by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Iowa Environmental Mesonet (IEM)

1893-present. Historical weather data for several dozen Iowa locations.

Iowa Natural Resources GIS Data

Downloadable environmental spatial data for Iowa.

National Geophysical Data Center NGDC

Maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Includes bathymetry and other marine data, natural hazards, and geomagnetic data.

USDA NRCS Geospatial Data Gateway

From the National Resources Conservation Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural and environmental data for the U.S.


GIS layers for climate data, with a resolution of one square kilometer.


A global database of agricultural land-use information. Created by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the International Food Policy Research Institute. Data can be mapped online or downloaded for use in desktop GIS programs.

Center for International Earth Science Information Network

Excellent source for data and GIS layers on global development issues.


Gap Analysis Program

Land cover, predicted distribution for common vertibrate species, and land ownership/stewardship information for the entire United States.


Data on the geographic distribution of amphibians and reptiles.

Mammal Networked Information System (MaNIS)

Data on the global geographic distribution of mammals.

Ocean Biogeographic Information System

Data on the geographic distribution of over 100,000 ocean-dwelling species.

Non-georeferenced Maps

Iowa Maps Digital Collection

High-resolution historical maps of Iowa. Maps can be downloaded.

Perry-Castaneda Library Maps

An outstanding collection of historical and contemporary maps held by the University of Texas at Austin Perry-Castaneda Library

Web-Based GIS/Interactive Map Tools

Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care

Thematic maps of health care indicators in the U.S.

Earth Point

Tools to enhance Google Earth.


Formerly Environmental Justice Geographic Assessment Tool; for research on local toxic sites.

Food Desert Locator

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.

Terraserver USA

Quick access to aerial photographs and topographic maps from Microsoft Research Maps and the USGS.

University of Virginia Historical Census Browser

Similar to NHGIS, with mappable but not downloadable data.


Interactive display of quantitative data.

Key to Icons

Restricted Resource = Restricted resource

Subject Specialist
Picture: Julia Bauder

Julia Bauder
Social Studies and Data Services Librarian
Tel: (641) 269- 4431

Don't Forget the Catalog!
Many printed maps and geographic data sets can be found in the library catalog. Try including "maps" or "statistics", plus the name of the area in which you are interested, in your search.
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