News & Blog Posts

2020 Posts

Posted: Aug 10, 2020Author: Laura McElfresh

This dataset is part of the Wisconsin Coastal Atlas, an online collection of geospatial data covering the coastal Wisconsin counties on Lakes Superior and Michigan. Read more...

Posted: July 30, 2020Interviewer: Jaime Martindale

Our new Data Provider Series highlights local governments and institutions that offer open GIS data. Read more...

Posted: July 28, 2020Author: Karen Majewicz

Our map of participants has grown! This month, we were joined by the University of Nebraska Libraries. Read more...

Posted: July 20, 2020Author: Caroline Kayko

This item is a map of Wisconsin from 1865, showing lines of equal temperature to depict the influence that proximity to Lake Michigan can have on the local temperatures. Read more...

Posted: July 13, 2020Author: Karen Majewicz

A large portion of the public GIS data in the BTAA Geoportal is from states and counties that provide base map layers, such as roads and property locations. In recent years, there has been a greater push to develop and share these kinds of layers for the Next Generation 911 project, a national initiative to improve emergency services by creating a complete national GIS framework of road centerlines, address points, and administrative boundaries. Read more...

Posted: July 6, 2020Author: Caroline Kayko

This item is a bird’s eye view map of Ann Arbor, Michigan, from 1866. The map depicts the city from above, at a slight angle, and oriented facing north to the upper right. Read more...

Posted: June 29, 2020Author: Jennifer Liss

An Atlas of Indiana was published 50 years ago and features over one hundred maps of the state. The maps are chiefly thematic, featuring "a broad coverage of both natural conditions and human activities on a state-wide basis" (Kingsbury, page 3). The atlas covers a little of everything: annual precipitation, bedrock geology, population distribution, income, industry, agriculture, and scheduled airline flights. The atlas sources data from the latest federal census materials available in 1968-69. Read more...

Posted: June 16, 2020Author: Melinda Kernik

The data are part of a study examining access to jobs by transit in 46 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States (based on population). The data allow for a direct comparison of transit accessibility performance between cities and are part of a longitudinal study conducted by the Accessibility Observatory. Read more...

Posted: May 27, 2020Author: Jaime Martindale

The original plat maps of the public land survey of Wisconsin are a valuable resource for original land survey information, as well as for understanding Wisconsin's landscape history. The survey of Wisconsin was conducted between 1832 and 1866 by the federal General Land Office. Read more...

Posted: May 11, 2020Author: Karen Hogenboom

This collection of historic aerial photos covers all of Illinois at various times between 1937 and 1947, and is hosted by the Illinois Geospatial Data Clearinghouse. If you haven’t encountered aerial photography before, it is exactly what it sounds like: pictures taken from an airplane. Illinois (and many other U.S. states) systematically photographed the state annually from 1937 until satellite imagery began to serve the same purpose of documenting the physical state. Read more...

Posted: May 5, 2020Author: Shirley Yue Li

This is a live dashboard to track Indiana’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, testing levels, and deaths. The county map shows the locations of cases. The dashboard is created and updated daily by the Polis Center at IUPUI. Read more...

Posted: May 4, 2020Author: Jay Bowen

As concerns over the global coronavirus pandemic have intensified, Iowans may be wondering if there is a reliable geospatial dataset that they can access to do their own monitoring of the virus in Iowa. Read more...

Posted: Mar 30, 2020Author: Cecilia Smith

By far, the maps most frequently requested at the University of Chicago library are the social scientists maps published by UChicago researchers in the 1920s and 1930s. Out of dozens of maps, however, there is a showstopper: East 63rd Street : Cottage Grove Ave. to Stony Island Ave. Read more...

Posted: Mar 2, 2020Author: Karen Majewicz

If you are looking to perform geospatial analysis on a dataset in the geoportal, using the Open in ArcGIS button will come in handy. Read more...

Posted: Feb 24, 2020Author: Bria Parker

Privacy is a hot-button issue - with all the devices that listen to us, that monitor us, how do we maintain our privacy as citizens? Should we have to sacrifice privacy for safety? How pervasive is the surveillance where you live? Read more...

Posted: Feb 17, 2020Author: Cecilia Smith

Check out this land survey map of the Mount Vernon estate drafted by George Washington in 1793! Read more...

Posted: Jan 27, 2020Author: Cecilia Smith

This is a map of railways and depots in Chicago and surrounding areas from 1897 by Rand McNally and Company. Read more...

Posted: Jan 21, 2020Author: Karen Majewicz

India was subjected to colonization by England between 1612-1947, first under private trading companies, and later the British government. A major turning point occurred in 1857, when Indian soldiers (known as Sepoys) serving the British East India Company revolted. Violent clashes broke out across northern India, and, although historians disagree on casualty numbers, at least hundreds of thousands of people were killed. This series of uprisings, known as the Indian Rebellion of 1957, prompted the British government to dissolve the Company and to assert their own direct control over India. Read more...

Posted: Jan 13, 2020Author: Caroline Kayko

The Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (MBGNA) is a University of Michigan organization that promotes environmental conservation and enjoyment of nature in two locations in Ann Arbor, MI: the Nichols Arboretum, and Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The MBGNA has an open data GIS hub where they host datasets about vegetation, trails, land cover, geology, and more. These can be used by anyone from botanists to nature trail enthusiasts. Read more...

Posted: Jan 6, 2020Author: Cecilia Smith

EarthStat is a primary source of data for exploring global agricultural patterns and food production. The data from this collection has been used in many articles, maps, museum exhibits, and interactive applications.

The data was produced in collaboration between the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and the Land Use and Global Environment Lab at the University of British Columbia. Read more...

2019 Posts

Posted: Dec 16, 2019Author: Daniel Dotson and Joshua Sadvari

In this post, Ohio State identifies maps they plan to digitize and add to the BTAA Geoportal.

Posted: Dec 09, 2019Author: Karen Majewicz

The Minnesota Geospatial Commons serves as the state’s central clearinghouse for public geospatial data. The Commons has grown from about 200 unique datasets at the time of public launch to over 800 today.

Posted: Dec 02, 2019Author: Cecilia Smith

This shapefile shows the Salt and Brine locations for Iowa Department of Transportation facilities. Thanks to this type of data, Iowans can track the movement of their snow plows live.

Posted: Nov 25, 2019Author: Melinda Kernik

This data layer shows the location of wildfires in Minnesota between 1985 and 2019 (updated weekly). It includes fires for which the MN Department of Natural Resources was the primary responding agency - in other words, wildfires on state lands and some rural private lands. It does not include fires occurring on federal and native American lands (several hundred annually) or those dealt with by local fire departments (several thousand annually). Even with only a subset of events represented, the data provide a fascinating look into the frequency and causes of wildfires across the state!

Posted: Nov 18, 2019Author: Kathleen Weessies

What happens when a broad-based discovery tool such as the Big Ten Geoportal brings together datasets that had been created in isolation and places them side-by-side? Scholars experience unprecedented findability and access to datasets which in turn gives rise to new questions and research topics. In short, knowledge is advanced more broadly, more deeply and in a more timely manner.

Posted Nov 11, 2019Author: Theresa Quill

IndianaMap is the largest publicly available collection of Indiana geographic information system (GIS) map data and includes data from all 92 Indiana Counties, as well as many state agencies, academic institutions, and federal agencies.

Posted Nov 4, 2019Author: Karen Majewicz

These scanned maps from Ian McHarg's influential 1960s study of the Twin Cities includes dozens of custom maps detailing the climate, geology, hydrology, biota, and built environment of the region, as well as mylar overlays to analyze potential areas for development and preserved open spaces.

Posted Oct 28, 2019Author: Cecilia Smith

This item is a shapefile of 631 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Historical Society compiled the data.

Posted Oct 21, 2019Authors: Nathan Piekielek, Paige Andrew, and Linda Ballinger

Over the course of the past three years Penn State University Libraries has organized and shared through the BTAA geoportal cartographic information resources of two primary types: 1) digital surrogates of original paper maps and atlases; and 2) geospatial datasets.

Posted Sep 30, 2019Author: Catherine Hodge

The Hixson Plat Map Atlases of Iowa digital collection contains the 1930 editions of Hixson plat books for 95 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Posted Sep 27, 2019Author: Karen Majewicz

MHAPO is an application hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Libraries that provides access to over 121,000 digital copies of Minnesota air photos. The photos come from both the University of Minnesota’s John R. Borchert Library collection and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s Landview application. Users can find photos by selecting a point along a flight path that links to a downloadable image.

Posted Sep 17, 2019Author: Kathleen Weessies

Michigan State University’s contributions to the BTAA Geoportal are split between keeping an eye on GIS datasets made available around the state of Michigan and contributing items from its own collection of antique and modern maps.

Posted Sep 10, 2019Author: BTAA GDP Metadata Committee

Writing formal citations is the focus of a new user guide and citation tool available from the BTAA Geoportal.

Posted Aug 30, 2019Author: Cecilia Smith

The Illinois Geospatial Data Clearinghouse, or Illinois Clearinghouse, is the go-to website for spatial natural resource data in the state of Illinois. As a “node” of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure Clearinghouse Network, the Illinois Clearinghouse distributes geospatial data to facilitate its use by governments and the public.

Posted Aug 13, 2019Author: Jaime Martindale

Since 2006 the Robinson Map Library at UW-Madison has collected and archived Wisconsin local government geospatial data for academic and public use.

Posted Aug 12, 2019Author: Cecilia Smith

This map depicts the number of passenger trains arriving and departing from Chicago each day in 1940.

Posted July 5, 2019Authors: Ryan Mattke & Melinda Kernik

The University of Minnesota’s contributions to the BTAA Geoportal range from 16th century maps of Asia to geospatial data created using mid-20th century maps, to born-digital geospatial data sets published earlier this year.

Wildcard searches

Posted Jun 21, 2019Author: Daniel Dotson

The Geoportal allows you to use two symbols to find word variations:

  • * allows you to truncate terms. For example, engrav* will find terms like engraved, engraving, engraver, etc. It can also get internal replacement, for example: lab*r will get labor and labour (but also Labrador!).
  • ? is for a single character replacement. For example, wom?n finds woman and women.

Posted May 28, 2019Author: Cecilia Smith

The University of Chicago Library’s first contribution to the BTAA Geoportal was the Social Scientists Map Collection. The digital collection consists of 45 maps produced by UChicago sociologists in the late 19th to early 20th centuries who studied the impact of environment on behavior.

Posted Apr 23, 2019Author: Joshua Sadvari

What’s in this collection?

Over 2,000 scanned historical maps dating from the late 19th to mid-20th century and covering much of Pennsylvania. Sanborn fire insurance maps contain a wealth of information about individual properties and were designed to assist insurance agents in determining fire hazard potential.

Posted Apr 23, 2019Authors: Daniel Dotson

Did you know that you can use facets to find data or maps from a specific range of years?

Posted Apr 11, 2019Authors: Yue Shirley Li and Nicole Kong

Purdue University Libraries has contributed three major collections to BTAA Geoportal, ranging from state geospatial data collection to libraries’ georeferenced imagery collection.

Posted Mar 19, 2019Author: Joshua Sadvari

There is no shortage of noteworthy, thought-provoking information coming out of Washington, D.C. these days… That’s right! I’m talking about D.C.’s open geospatial data!

Posted Mar 19, 2019Authors: Catherine Hodge and Rob Shepard

Our largest contribution by volume comes from two of our digital collections: the Hixson Plat Map Atlases of Iowa and the Iowa Counties Historic Atlases. By adding these collections to the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal in 2016, University of Iowa was the first institution to contribute a series of scanned historic maps.

Posted Feb 28, 2019Author: Daniel Dotson

What is this item?

A scan of a 1966 USGS map.

What geographic region is featured?


Posted Feb 28, 2019Authors: Kelley O'Neal and Bria Parker

University of Maryland (UMD) Libraries has contributed to the BTAA Geoportal a few dozen scanned historical maps of 18th and 19th century Maryland from our Maryland Map Collection that focuses on the Chesapeake Bay region. Additionally we have helped to identify and contribute nearly 3,000 state and city-wide geospatial datasets for inclusion in the Geoportal, including open data from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

Posted Jan 29, 2019Author: Danny Dotson

What is in this collection?

398 digitized maps that reflect multiple areas from both poles.

What geographic region is featured?

Both poles – Antarctica and Greenland being most common.

Posted: Jan 29, 2019Author: Nicole Sholtz

Our primary contribution to the BTAA Geoportal has been from the digital map collection from the Stephen S. Clark Library for Maps, Government Information and Data Services. Our geographic strengths include Michigan and the Great Lakes region, Europe, Japan, and South Africa, and we are continuing to scan and post maps from our collection of over 370,000 paper maps.

2018 Posts

Posted Dec 7, 2018Authors: Daniel Dotson and Joshua Sadvari

Ohio State University joined the BTAA geoportal in the summer of 2017. Our more recent addition as project collaborators means that in some ways we are “playing catch-up” with our peer institutions that have been involved since the project’s inception, but it also gives us a great opportunity to fill in gaps that existed for Ohio maps and geospatial data before we began contributing to the geoportal.

Posted Nov 8, 2018Authors: Jennifer Liss and Theresa Quill

According to WorldCat, approximately half of the digitized sheet maps in the Indiana Historic Maps collection have never been cataloged before. A large portion of the state’s earliest maps were issued in the annual reports of the Indiana Geological Survey and, while the bound journals were cataloged and readily findable, the individual maps within were not. We’re very excited to make this hidden collection discoverable in the Geoportal. More sheet maps will be added, so be sure to check back!

Posted Oct 17, 2018Authors: Nathan Piekielek, Paige Andrew, and Linda Ballinger

At the start of the BTAA Geoportal project in 2015, the state of Pennsylvania already had a well-developed geospatial data clearinghouse (PASDA) and the Penn State University Libraries had already published online tens of thousands of scanned Sanborn fire insurance maps. What we lacked, however, was a user-friendly online interface with which to search for digital cartographic resources geographically, as well as by keyword and topic regardless of their format (i.e., GIS data OR scanned map).

Posted Sep 19, 2018Authors: Amanda Tickner and Kathleen Weessies

MSU Libraries have submitted a collection of antique scanned maps collections (which focus primarily on Michigan, the Great Lakes region, and Africa).

Posted Aug 21, 2018Authors: Jaime Martinedale and Jim Lacy

Wisconsin is unique in that we don’t have an official state geoportal of our own. Therefore, we rely heavily on referring users to the BTAA Geoportal to access the geospatial content they need. While many agencies and local offices in Wisconsin provide data access via their own websites, pointing users to the BTAA Geoportal as a single point of entry to discover and download maps and data across our state (and region) is extremely valuable.

Posted Jul 8, 2018Authors: Melinda Kernik and Ryan Mattke

The University of Minnesota has contributed public GIS records from the Minnesota Geospatial Commons, the Minnesota Legislative Coordinating Commission, and several individual counties. They have also added many items from the University’s digital repositories, including scanned maps from the John R. Borchert Map Library, GeoTIFFs from the Polar Geospatial Center, research data from the U of M Digital Conservancy, and hundreds of mixed resources from the Minnesota Geological Survey.

2017 Posts

Posted Dec 11, 2017

New records include Indiana Historic Maps and data from counties in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Posted Sep 12, 2017

As of September 2017, the BTAA Geoportal has three new features: Enhanced Metadata Display, Browse for Items on the Map, and Autocomplete for the Search box.

Posted Jul 24, 2017

This month, we welcomed two new Big Ten Academic Alliance universities to the project, Ohio State University and the University of Chicago. Look for new collections from these contributors coming soon! Our updated map shows that we now represent a contiguous region from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Posted June 6, 2017

109 geospatial records were recently added to the geoportal from the City of Chicago’s Open Data Portal, notably dozens of records about public schools in the city. 17 GIS records were added from the City of Bloomington Data Portal.

Posted May 2, 2017

109 geospatial records were recently added to the geoportal from the City of Chicago’s Open Data Portal, notably dozens of records about public schools in the city. 17 GIS records were added from the City of Bloomington Data Portal.

Posted Apr 4, 2017

During March 2017, 802 scanned maps from the University of Michigan Clark Library were added to the geoportal. Several hundred scanned maps from the University of Minnesota’s Borchert Map Library were also added bringing the total number of map records to over 1700.

Posted Feb 16, 2017

It is Love Your Data Week and a key part of doing geospatial work is “Finding the Right Data”! The Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal strives to make relevant data easy to discover and fit into your workflow. While the data displayed in our portal comes from a variety of sources, it is often possible to access or download the data through our site.

Posted Jan 31, 2017

We added over 400 scanned map records from university libraries and 24 shapefiles from the Minnesota Legislative Coordinating Commission to the geoportal during January 2017.

2016 Posts

Posted Dec 30, 2016

Approximately 350 records were added to the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal during December of 2016, bringing the total to over 4,000.

Posted Dec 1, 2016

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal provides links to public GIS datasets, web services, and digitized historical maps from multiple data clearinghouses and library catalogs. The geographical area represented is primarily the Upper Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.

Posted Nov 15, 2016.

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Geospatial Data Project (formerly CIC Geospatial Data Discovery Project) has launched the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal, built with GeoBlacklight. This project is collectively managed by a task force of librarians and geospatial specialists at ten research institutions from across the Big Ten Academic Alliance. These institutions have collaboratively aggregated and edited thousands of metadata records from multiple GIS data clearinghouses, FTP sites, and library catalogs.