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Urban Studies Research Guide: Maps & GIS

Who Can Help?

The Digital Map and Geospatial Information Center is located in the Lewis Library’s Fine Hall Wing. The Center provides access to paper maps, geospatial data, digital map services and geographic information systems (GIS). In addition, they provide ongoing reference, research consultation and instruction to all levels of user experience in our facility or in your office or classroom. The Center has eight workstations with 30-inch monitors loaded with GIS and satellite image processing software packages, and commonly used geographic data. Faculty, students, staff and others in the Princeton University community are welcome to contact or visit the Center for additional information.

Internet Resources

Getting Started

What is GIS? A GIS is a computer system capable of capturing, storing, analyzing, and displaying geographically referenced information; that is, data identified according to location. Practitioners also define a GIS as including the procedures, operating personnel, and spatial data that go into the system.

Why is it important to urban planners and architects? GIS can be used for inventory and analysis (especially 3D analysis), is useful when studying urban developments or renewal, and for preparing 3D views, images or animations by using satellite images or aerial photographs.

Online Map Resources

Digital Map and Geographic Data: The Princeton University Library Digital Maps and Geospatial Center's database includes paper maps and aerial photographs; all the paper maps were scanned at 400 dpi with 256 colors; aerial photographs were scanned at 800 dpi. 

GEOMAP is the online catalog of Princeton University Library's Map Collection. 
The catalog does not yet hold records for all maps in the collection. Currently the Map Collection houses over 325,000 maps. If upon searching GEOMAP, you are not successful in locating what you need or have questions about the collection, please contact the Map Room Staff.

Digital Sanborn Maps (1867-1970): Sanborn fire insurance maps contain detailed information on urban structures, property boundaries, and streets. Provides historical information on the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

Fire Insurance Maps Online: Provides access to a digital collection of historical color fire insurance maps, real estate atlases, and similar land use maps for North America. High definition, color and gray-scale images display important historical details not visible on black and white map scans. Includes map research tools and search tips to make finding maps for a specific location easy. Maps include publications by Sanborn, Perris, Hexamer, Whipple, Baist, Bromley, Hopkins and others.

Historic Map WorksDigitized maps and atlases, plus associated illustrations and city directories. Includes cadastral maps of the U.S. Covers the world from the 15th-20th centuries.

Philadelphia neighborhoodBase: This is a publicly-accessible, web-based, geographic data application developed by the University of Pennsylvania's Cartographic Modeling Lab. Along with parcelBase, muralBase, and crimeBase, neighborhoodBase is one of four applications that comprise the Neighborhood Information System. The neighborhoodBase website is designed to assist community-based planning and development organizations, government agencies, researchers and concerned individuals in their efforts to analyze, transform and revitalize Philadelphia neighborhoods.