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GIS: Geographic Information Systems: Find DATA & Shapefiles

Northwestern University Library's GIS guide.

GIS Data & Shapefiles - by location

New & newly found resources!

  • Find basic data on the Great Lakes from the Great Lakes Commission, an interstate agency that promotes development, use and conservation of the water and related natural resources of the Great Lakes basin and St. Lawrence River.
  • Chicago GISChicago map & GIS resources such as area boundary files, bike routes, major streets, as well as hospital and school locations.
  • Chicago Data Portal: Downloadable datasets, maps & shapefiles.
  • CMAP (Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning): Data on demographics, land use, transportation, and regional indicators for Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake & Will Counties.
  • Cook County Open Data PortalThe county hosts a Maps & Data page covering a fairly wide variety of topics including: Online Mapping with Cook Viewer, Connect to Cook, Cook County TIF Viewer, Connect to Cook, Cook County Facilities Map, Cook County Highway Construction Projects, Fishing Lakes of the Forest Preserve of Cook County, Cook County Highway Jurisdiction

The National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) provides aggregate census data and GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2012.

Association of American Geographer's Historical GIS Clearinghouse and Forum The Historical GIS Clearinghouse and Forum provides access or to projects that apply geographic technologies to historical research.

General (roads, political boundaries, country specific data): DIVA-GIS

This list does not represent all possible resources. If you are unable to find a particular dataset please contact the Map Specialist.

*Disclaimer: While this document provides links to potential GIS data resources online, it does not endorse the authenticity of any data. You are responsible for any data you download and for respecting propriety and copyrighted data. Do not illegally use data.

New Resource!  Smartgov Africa gives researchers access to 1.2M socio-economic datapoints, in 54 countries. The SmartGov Africa project was launched in June 2015 by SmartGov Technologies Ltd, Cambridge UK. SG Africa was designed to aggregate, geo-reference and discuss all African public data. The platform is open for anyone to use.

The Map Library is a source of public domain basic map data concerning administrative boundaries in Africa.

AfricaMap is housed at the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University.

Stanford Geospatial Center, Branner Earth Sciences Library

Worldpop combines the African, Asian and American population mapping projects.

Mountain Geoportal gateway to geo-information resources of the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region

ACASIAN The Australian Consortium for the Asian Spatial Information and Analysis Network

Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union which provides statistics that enable comparisons between European countries and regions.

GISCO, a Eurostat service which promotes and stimulates the use of GIS within the European Statistical System and the Commission. 

INSPIRE Geoportal is a European Union spatial information geo-portal supporting environmental policy research. 

EUFGIS or European Information System on Forest Genetic Resources.

The Mosaic Project, from The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) identifies, gathers, harmonizes, and distributes surviving historical census microdata for Europe and beyond. 


Spatial Data Repository The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program has collected, analyzed, and disseminated accurate and representative data on population, health, HIV, and nutrition through more than 300 surveys in over 90 countries. 

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Mapping & Data Resources by Subject

The quality and content of GIS the data can vary greatly, as well as the cost, and ease of access. Many datasets can be obtained for free. Listed below are links to sources for data types ranging from global to city level: