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Learning GIS and Finding Geospatial Data: Home

Access guides, tutorials and documentation made available by the Leventhal Map & Education Center, for the purposes of digital mapmaking, using GIS data and learning geospatial mapping tools, software and principles

Learning GIS and Finding Geospatial Data

Contact a Librarian

The best way to get in touch with our GIS & Data Librarian, Ian Spangler, is to visit Geospatial Research at the Leventhal Map & Education Center.

Services We Provide

Our geospatial information library staff can help you with:

  • Personalized, one-on-one research consultations about your GIS data or mapping project

  • Someone to talk with about where to find online data and software resources

  • Tips for structuring your own data or reformatting existing data for new purposes

  • Access to important or useful datasets, especially those related to Boston and Massachusetts

  • Guides and tutorials on how to find and work with GIS data

  • Documentation about LMEC’s geospatial humanities projects

  • A friendly resource for best practices on managing geographic information in historic archives


The Leventhal Map & Education Center maintains a portal called Cartinal with numerous guides, tutorials, and documentation sources for geospatial data and projects. Cartinal includes both step-by-step guides that are suitable for beginners who have never worked with GIS before, as well as more technical documentation for data services and resources provided by LMEC.

Some examples of resources you can find in Cartinal:

Data Formats and Software

GIS Data Formats

We can help you create, find, manipulate and preserve geospatial data formatted as:

  • Points, lines or polygons
  • Images of maps transformed to real-life geographies
  • Spreadsheets or tabular data with records containing locations

GIS Mapping Software

We can point you to learning resources for GIS mapping software such as:

  • QGIS free desktop software
  • ArcGIS commercial desktop suite
  • Cloud mapping platforms like ArcGIS Online
  • Custom web map development environments like Leaflet

Example Research Projects

Still not sure if you’re in the right place?
Here are some example geospatial research projects we can help with:

  • You are finding an online data resource difficult to navigate
  • You’d like to make a map displaying your team’s geographic reach or impact
  • You are interested in combining different historical sources to investigate the history of a place
  • You attended one of our mapmaking workshops and have followup questions
  • You want to know the best way to get started learning a free mapping software like QGIS
  • You are interested in public health data and want to understand geographic trends
  • You have used our tool Atlascope and want to use some of the historic data layers
  • You are working with historic cartographic materials and want to chat about best practices
  • You are gathering your own data and would like advice on structuring the spatial attributes
  • You have an important Boston dataset you think should be preserved or discoverable
  • You teach with GIS data and would like to collaborate about resources
  • You want to georeference a map or use one of our georeferenced maps