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GIS Data Download Practice - Rapid-Fire 15 Minute Exercise!

Important! Use Firefox for this exercise, NOT Internet Explorer!

You are going to download three data sets from one of the GIS data sites listed below. In each case, you'll need to search for where the link is for downloading GIS data (not just a map viewer). Sometimes the download area is referred to as a Data Warehouse or Data Catalog.

If given a choice of formats, download the shape file format (.shp) or geodatabase (.gdb).


Before you begin, on your H: drive create a new folder called GIS Downloads. Save all downloads to this folder and unzip them there.

Ready, set, go! Find and download 3 GIS data sets from one of the sites below:

  1. National Atlas (US Govt. - good site for downloading data sets covering the entire US - major hint - go to the link for Mapping Professionals, and then click on link for National Atlas Data and Dcoumentation)
  2. MassGIS (hint: follow the link for Data Layers, then click on Data Layers again - also, when downloading, follow the directions  uncompressing .exe files on lab computers
  3. New Hampshire GIS
  4. Vermont GIS
  5. Florida Geospatial Data Library
  6. New York City Open Data Portal - hint: go to a subject, or to Data Catalog - All Categories, then look for Type = Maps, choose something to map, then Export, then Shapefile format (note there is more GIS data at the City Planning Department's Bytes of the Big Apple site - be wary about downloading data from here for this exercise since some are very large data sets! Don't download parcels for now!
  7. Boston, MA - Data Hub (Note: Boston also has an open data portal here, but most of the map data is in Excel format using latitude and longitude - we'll learn how to map this kind of data later in the semester!)
  8. Washington, DC - hint: look for data sets that have the little ESRI world icon - these are shape files.  Note there are many data sets here with KML (Google Earth) files - we'll learn how to bring these into ArcGIS later in the semester.
  9. Albuquerque, NM
  10. Chicago, IL - there is GIS data there in shapefile format - look around!
  11. Davis, CA

Now, get those data sets up and running in ArcMap!

  1. Unzip the data sets if you haven't already
  2. Start ArcMap with a new, empty map
  3. Click on Windows - Catalog 
  4. Navigate to your Folder Connections, then H: drive, GIS Downloads folder and add the data sets
  5. Try adding a basemap to your map from ESRI's online data (go to the File menu and choose Add Data - Add Basemap)

What issues did you find when you were downloading the data set? What more do you want to know?

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