Big Ten’s Geospatial Data Portal connecting access to GIS, historical map data

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) Geospatial Data Portal Project, of which Penn State University Libraries is a contributor, has launched an online spatial data discovery tool called the Big Ten Academic Alliance Geoportal. The project and geoportal aim to provide discoverability, facilitate access and connect scholars across the Big Ten Academic Alliance to often scattered geospatial data resources.

“The BTAA Geoportal is managed collectively by a task force of more than 20 librarians and geospatial specialists at 10 member institutions,” said Paige Andrew, University Libraries maps cataloging librarian and BTAA task force member. “Thousands of metadata records have been aggregated and edited to connect scholars across the Big Ten to geospatial data resources, including GIS datasets, web services and digitized historical map images from multiple data clearinghouses and library catalogs or websites.” Andrew is one of three Penn State representatives on the task force, along with metadata strategist Linda Ballinger and geospatial services librarian Nathan Piekielek.

The geoportal tool offers both place-based and text-based search options to accommodate different kinds of users and their familiarity with geospatial data. Item-level pages display descriptive metadata records based on user search results along with external links to download, view a preview or read more about the resources that have been retrieved.

The BTAA project launched in 2015 to provide discoverability, facilitate access to, and connect scholars across the Big Ten Academic Alliance to often-scattered geospatial data resources. To date, the project’s outputs include the public geoportal, a harvestable collection of more than 3,000 geospatial records in a uniform metadata standard, workflow documentation collaborative scholarly publications and poster presentations, and a blog.

Penn State’s participation in the Geoportal project also has included a broad collaboration of numerous departments and staff, both internal and external to the University Libraries. Within the Libraries, the Cataloging and Metadata Services’ maps cataloging team is providing metadata enhancement support; the Eberly Family Special Collections Library is facilitating access to the Libraries’ Rare Maps Collection; the Department of Preservation, Conservation and Digitization is digitizing individual maps from the Rare Maps Collection; and the Donald W. Hamer Maps Library is providing access to digitized maps from that collection.

Outside the University Libraries, the Penn State-affiliated Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access (PASDA) and DataCommons team contributed all of their metadata records to the geoportal project. In addition, the project has benefited from many developments made across the growing geospatial data clearinghouse development community in recent years. In particular, it is indebted to the contributors to these national and international initiatives: OpenGeoportal, GeoBlacklight and OpenGeoMetadata.

The project team is seeking to secure continuation funding from existing, and hopefully new, library participants to add more metadata records, respond to user feedback on the existing interface, and expand the functionality of the geoportal for the coming year. For the future we seek to move from “pilot” to a formal and ongoing program that will continue to allow more metadata contributions from Big Ten Academic Alliance members, broadening our geospatial service’s reach to benefit researchers everywhere.

For additional information about Penn State’s participation in the BTAA Geoportal, contact Paige Andrew

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Last Updated January 24, 2017