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Maps Research Guide: GIS Data and Aerial Imagery

A compilation of print and online resources on how to locate and use maps.

What is GIS?

GIS (Geographic information system) are computer systems that capture, store, and display data related to positions on Earth’s surface. This technology combines information from maps with other data about people, the land, climate, farms, houses, businesses, and much more, allowing multiple sets of data to be displayed on a single map. Many industries and governments use GIS technology for analysis and decision making. For example, GIS data helps officials determine which streams are most in danger of being polluted. It can also help a business decide where to locate a new store. Many thematic maps are now made with the help of GIS technology.

Aerial Imagery Resources Overview

Aerial imagery remains an important application of remote sensing, with a sophisticated range of cameras being used to collect information on geology, land use, agricultural management, forestry, water pollution, natural disasters, urban planning, wildlife management, and environmental impact assessments.

source: Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, "Comprehensive Remote Sensing," Volume 9, 2018, pp. 123-143

Mansfield Library Aerial Imagery Resources

The Mansfield Library's Archives and Special Collections holds a limited number of aerial photographs of Montana. For more information about accessing these, please contact Archives and Special Collections.

Aerial Photograph of Frenchtown Montana


Additional options for aerial perspectives of the state include:

Orthophotoquad Maps

Orthophotoquads are black and white aerial photos of the same scale as drawn topographic maps (1:24,000). This series was done in the late 1960's and 1970's. The library has limited holdings of these for western Montana. These maps are filed by topographic quad name in the Archives and Special Collections Montana Room.

Soil Surveys

screenshot of Web Soil Survey homepage

You can find print soils surveys by looking up the county you need in the library's online catalog, OneSearch. Most soil surveys may be checked out. Soil surveys are also available online through the Web Soil Survey.

Online Aerial Imagery Resources

Arc-GIS Software

screenshot of Arc-GIS homepage

The Mansfield Library has computers with Arc-GIS software installed on them. These computers are accessible with a NetID and password. Ask at the Reference Desk on Level 3 for more information on how to access these computers.

You can access tutorial on how to use ArcGIS through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) open courseware site.

Mansfield Library GIS Resources

Find physical maps and other publications created using GIS data by accessing the library's online catalog, OneSearch. Examples include:

Open-source GIS Tools

Create maps using GIS data with one or more of these free, open-source options that you can download to your own computer.

QGIS Tutorial by Klas Karlsson.

For additional QGIS training materials and tutorials, visit their Training Materials webpage.

Online GIS Map Resources

screenshot of Montana GIS web platform