If you want to store geographic features in an open source database, you have two options: PostGIS/PostgreSQL or MySQL Spatial. MySQL has limited GIS support compared to PostGIS, but I want to test if it's sufficient for thematic mapping.
I will recommend two software packages: XAMPP and FWTools. XAMPP is an easy to install Apache distribution containing MySQL, PHP and PERL. FWTools is an open source GIS binary containing MapServer, GDAL/OGR, Proj.4, OpenEV, OGDI and Phyton. Maybe more than you need, but it is an easy install. The Swiss Army Knife is the GDAL/OGR library.
I have my boundary polygons stored in a shapefile. There is no MySQL command which enables you to upload spatial data to a database table (this can be done with PostGIS using the shp2pqsql command) . If you have installed the GDAL/OGR library, you can use the ogr2ogr command to upload point, lines or polygons from a shapefile. The command I used was:
ogr2ogr -f MySQL MySQL:my_database,user=root,password=mypassword TM_WORLD_BORDERS_SIMPL-0.1.shp -nln my_table -nlt MULTIPOLYGON -update -overwrite -lco GEOMETRY_NAME=my_polygon_column