This month in Map Mavin Methods we take a slight deviation from our normal theme of covering specific features and tools of Map Mavin, and instead offer some guidance on making maps with free data. One of the most common questions beginning map-makers have is, “Where do I get data from?” If you’ve spent a good amount of time studying GIS in school or have been trained in the workplace, then you may know how to assemble data yourself and visualize it in a map manually. But what if you’ve never used a GIS before and just want to create maps of your neighborhood or an area of interest using readily available layers? Fear not, because we’ll spend the next several articles in our Map Mavin Methods series covering various ways to find and import free, publicly-accessible data with ease.
The first idea we’ll cover is not a particular website or type of data but a general suggestion. If you’re trying to find free datasets and spatial layers for a particular town, county, city or state, the best place to begin is by checking out that entity’s website. Let’s take the City of New York as an example.
Bigger cities tend to have a higher likelihood of maintaining and making available many downloadable spatial layers. New York City’s Open Data platform is one of the best examples of this. Simply go to their site and search for the layer(s) you may want to use. The same is the case for the City of Boulder – i.e. the examples shown in the video above. Once you’ve found a layer you like, download it as a shapefile or KML (we recommend KML) as these are both formats accepted by Map Mavin.
From there, simply upload the layer into the My Data Layers & Folders section of Map Mavin and BAM! You’re all good to go!