While going through the maps in the Indiana University Bloomington collection it has been interesting to see all the stamps and notes written on the maps over time. I have come across many “classified” stamps, as well as stamps from Germany, the CIA and some stamps in Cyrillic. Many of these maps were acquired by IU after the original institution gave away their duplicates. I sometimes wonder why these maps were considered classified in the first place, and for what period of time were these maps considered so important that they were classified material. It’s hard to remember a time when information, and especially geographical information, wasn’t at your fingertips. Now you can just click on any address and google maps will give you directions, you can look at an aerial view of the area and maybe even get a specific street view of the location, no special clearance necessary.


Most of IU’s geospatial databases are available to the public to download with no use restrictions. Three tutorials are provided to help users, but the tutorials require JavaScript to be enabled on your computer and you need the latest version of the Adobe Flash Player. The “How to Use the Indiana Spatial Data Portal (ISDP) Multi-file Download Tool” is a little over 9 minutes long. It describes 4 different methods for discovery data when using the tool. The “Downloading, Unpacking and Viewing ISDP Data” tutorial is about 10 minutes. It is about downloading a zip archive from the ISPD and, maybe most helpful, what to do it you have difficulty distraction an ISPD zip file. The “How Do I Find Information about ISDP Datasets” tutorial is almost 9 minutes long and shows users how to open and view material after downloading it. To proceed, you need to logon. New users only need to provide an email address and accept the user agreement.

Zambia Pencil Map

This week I came across an interesting map of a portion of Zambia. It is a sort of “rough draft” for this series of topographic maps. These maps were drawn from pictures taken from a plane. Then these photographs were sketched before the additional information was added. With today’s technology it is remarkable to think of how many iterations were done by hand. Something that can now so easily be done with computers. But here is an artifact from the original process sitting in front of me in 2019, 50 years after this pencil drawing.

Data Partners

The Indiana Spatial Data Portal archives and provides web access to imaging provided by data partners. Those partners include federal, state and local organizations and agencies and universities which supports IndianaMap ( One interesting resource is the thematic map gallery which provides maps specific to Indiana issues and trends. Not only are there maps showing legislative boundaries, demographics, and airports, there are also maps of karst features and wind speed and elevation contours. There are also orthophotos from 2011 to 2018. Also within IndianaMap are initiatives, including Indiana’s Geospatial Technologies Policy Timeline. It is an interactive tool that allows users to move through a timeline of Indiana from 1785 and the land ordinance for the Northwest Territory through Indiana aerial surveys from 1930 to 1980. Users are invited to submit to the timeline.

South Africa Topo-Cadastral Maps

While cataloging the South Africa 1:50,000 series, I came across a number of maps that are both topographical and cadastral. Cadastral maps are maps that show the property lines and property owners. In this case, because the maps are from South Africa in 1961 they are maps of apartheid. While I don’t think that cadastral maps of South Africa even exists from the pre-apartheid era, it would be interesting to see how things looked before systematic land grabs from the people who have lived in South Africa for thousands of years. It’s just another example of interesting items that IU has in its map collection. It’s also another example of the way the IUCAT listings are not wholly accurate and interesting features of specific maps are not listed in the catalog. While I can’t begin to add information on every map in the collection, by adding this information to my index map, it might be discoverable to researchers interesting in this topic.

IU Bloomington Limestone Maps

Indiana University Bloomington uses GIS maps to show the beauty and history of it’s limestone buildings. This online map ( highlights limestone, the architecture and the history of the Bloomington campus. It can be accessed from our computer or mobile device to enhance your walk around the campus. You can click on the numbered features on the pay to see photos of various buildings and learn about the limestone used in the construction of that building, as well as the architectural style and historic facts. The description of the Herman B. Wells Library, built in 1970, includes 2 theories about the design of the exterior panels. Are they meant to resemble piles of books or the strata of the bedrock exposed in southern Indiana? The description also notes the building was featured in the classic movie, “Breaking Away.” The Indiana Memorial Union was built in the Collegiate Gothic style, while the law school was build using a combination of Modern and Collegiate Gothic style. This is a great example of how using smart phones to access GIS services can allow for people to create their own tours and have accurate directions and markings as people move around the world in the real time.

IU Story Maps

A part of IU’s celebration of its bicentennial are story maps that map out IU’s history, which are “visual depictions of pieces of Indiana University’s history ( There are three story maps. The first is a sketch map drawn by Theophilius A. Wylie’s grandson in 1954 by memory (Theophilius A. Wylie III’s Memory Map). This interactive map is useful in understanding what the Wylie house property was like in the 19th century with reference to the current landscape. The Legacy of Andrew Wylie memory map looks at IU when Andrew Wylie became the first president of Indiana College, which became Indiana University in 1838 under his leadership. It include artifacts found at the site of the Wylie House. The Greek House memory map in an interactive spyglass map that compares the IU campus of 1938 to today with a focus on Greek housing. In this fascinating memory map, a 1939 archival map is superimposed on current satellite imagery. You can also click on green pushpins to obtain additional information about individual Greek houses.

Public use of GIS

Although colleges and universities use GIS to manage their map collections, it also is used by local government and is accessible to the public.  For example, maps and property information for Monroe County, Indiana, are available through Elevate.  The user must agree to a license agreement, which simply states the data is for public information services only, updated as provided by the country, and not to be used for legal purposes.  It also has a tutorial that consists of 5 boxes with descriptions of how to use the site that you can click through or examine the topics more thoroughly.  But using the site is relatively intuitive even without the tutorial.  The site is searchable by address, parcel ID number, or owner name.  But if you don’t have the specific information and know an address or owner in the general area, you can search for that parcel.  You can find the parcel you want by knowing where it is located in relation to the address you know and click on it.  The information for that parcel can then be obtained.  The information is divided into 4 topics.  The report card contains a picture of the land and building, with information about the owner, address, neighborhood, legal description, historical transfer of ownership, valuation and sales,  The other topics are tax bill, overlay report, and additional data.  For Monroe County, there is a link to the county website through additional data to pay your tax bill.

IU Bloomington Campus Model

While through the union I stopped to notice this 3d model of the IU Bloomington Campus. Although I am sure that trustees and master planners have seen many different versions of this map, I really appreciate the model in the Memorial Union. Although I know that IU owns many of the houses around campus, the color coding of the model buildings shows how the official line of campus becomes blurred at the edges. Not only does it really show the size of the campus, but it shows what the future plans are for the campus buildings. I also wonder about the man hours that went in to this model. While it is easy to just switch filters and run analyses on the ArcMap, this model was probably designed using the software, but then either 3d printed, or created by hand. It is maps like these that can really change your perception about the area around you. For instance, I know the Memorial Union can be large and confusing, but looking at it “from above” really shows how large and sprawling the building actually is. Now I don’t have to be so embarrassed about getting lost in there all the time!

City of Bloomington GIS

IU’s GIS website also lists spatial data resources at IU, as well as local and national resources, at kb.iu.ed. One of the local resources is the City of Bloomington GIS ( Bloomington’s GIS website provides links to a number of interactive maps, including the 2019 Street Paving Schedule Map and a City of Bloomington Utilities (CBU) crew location map which shows where CBU crews are working on the day your access the map. The leaf pick up status map shows the progress of leaf collection in city neighborhoods. In the Map Gallery section of the Open Data Portal, there are 57 datasets including, for example, a city solar facilities map, individual neighborhood maps, building footprint GIS data map, and a Bloomington Digital Underground (BDU) map. There are also 34 datasets, including a summary of GIS data for downloads, which contains a summary of the most commonly requested GIS data and direct links to download that data.