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Maps: Digital maps & data

A guide to finding and using printed and digital maps.

Digital maps & geospatial data

Digital maps may be categorized by increasing complexity:

  1. Static maps. Most maps on the internet are of this type. They cannot be edited but may be printed or inserted into a document - they may be jpg or tif format, and the qualty can be poor.
  2. Editable maps. The file format for these is eps (or sometimes pdf) and they can be edited with the right software eg. Adobe Illustrator. They are usually better quality than (1)
  3. Online atlases. These may have different layers which you can choose, so as to create your own personalised map
  4. Geospatial data. This is raw data which can be downloaded, but must be processed with a Geographical Information System eg ArcGIS to produce a map

Google Maps are easy to get hold of, but should not be used for academic work unless there are really no alternatives.  They also have restrictions on use meaning content should not be copied - see Google permissions guidelines for Google Maps, Google Earth and Street View.  If you need a map of Britain, use Digimap which is official mapping from a variety of sources, including the Ordnance Survey.  Digimap also includes Global Digimap, which is world mapping taken from OpenStreetMap sources. You can also check the websites tab in this guide to see if other sources are available.

Journal of maps

The Journal of maps is a peer-reviewed, inter-disciplinary, online journal that aims to provide a forum for researchers to publish maps and spatial diagrams. Mapping is a fundamental tool of geographical enquiry yet there has been a decline in the published form - "the Journal of Maps is an attempt to redress the balance and provide an outlet for publication of maps of all types; an antidote to the malaise in map publication" (Smith, 2005).  In this journal the map rather than the text is the main focus, although it is accompanied by explanatory information.  It contains an enormous variety of types of maps on a huge variation of themes. Recent examples include:

  • The Spanish population during the twentieth century and beyond
  • Extreme rainfall relationship in Mexico
  • Mapping the visual landscape quality in Europe using physical attributes
  • Mapping car ownership in Great Britain over four decades

Smith, M.J. (2005) The Journal of Maps: an electronic journal for the presentation and dissemination of map based data. Journal of Maps, 1, 1-6.

e-Perimetron

e-Perimetron is an peer reviewed, international open access journal.  It couples issues of history of cartography and maps with the possibilities of digital information and communication technologies. Produced by the International cartographic Association (ICA) Commision on Cartographic Heritage into the Digital.

Livingmaps Review (LMR)

Livingmaps Review is produced by the Livingmaps Network and is an open access journal that promotes critical cartography as a form of citizen social science, blurring the distinction between professional and amateur mapmakers. It supports and reports on initiatives in participative and community mapping. It welcomes collaboration between artists, academics and activists.

BRICMICS Twitter feed

Digimap

  • Ordnance Survey data can be accessed for academic use, including both location maps and very largDigimap logoe scale detailed plans. 
  • Older large-scale Ordnance Survey maps (1846-1996) of Britain can be accessed through Historic Digimap
  • Geological maps can be accessed through Geology Digimap. 
  • Land cover data from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and 1930s land use maps are available through Environment Digimap. 
  • Hydrographic charts and marine themes data can be accessed through Marine Digimap
  • Getmapping aerial imagery can be accessed through Aerial Digimap
  • Lidar Digimap allows you to download Lidar data for use in GIS and CAD applications
  • Global Digimap utilises worldwide OpenStreetMap data.
  • Society Digimap combines census and socio-economic data with Ordnance Survey maps.
  • For landscape and buildings information use Verisk Digimap (formerly Geomni)
  • AgCensus Digimap gives gridsquare agricultural census data.

All the maps (except Lidar Digimap) may be accessed and printed out at a variety of scales.  Alternatively, geospatial data can be downloaded for use in a geographical information system (GIS).

Digimap is available online from any PC, but an Institutional login is required plus an initial registration to use the service - 

  1. Connect to Digimap using the link above and complete a registration form
  2. Accept the licence agreements associated with each collection

Edina's Digimap registration pages give more information and guidance.

Please note: By accepting the licence you are agreeing to the terms and conditions listed in the End User Licence Agreement (EULA)

Digimap does not cover the Isle of Man. 

Geology Digimap example                                 Historical Digimap example

Help & guidance

Using Digimap

Digimap can be used at every stage in your academic career.  At its simplest, a map can be added from Roam to illustrate an essay. However it can also be used when planning fieldwork and collecting data.  It can then be used in conjunction with GIS to analyse your data.

The video below shows you how to do this.

This video is on the Digimap YouTube channel; there are many more videos here, including QGIS (and ArcGIS) and Digimap data; OS MasterMap and building heights; Lidar Digimap; and Saving maps and annotations