Category Archives: Storytelling with Maps

Story Map Journal: A Geo-Multimedia Extravaganza

In July the Esri Story Maps team released the Story Map Journal, a new storytelling app that enables users to combine long-form text with rich multimedia content. Among the app’s features:

  • A “main stage” for large visuals, including maps, photos, videos, and websites
  • A “side panel” that accommodates titles, text. photos, and videos
  • A builder function that enables users to create media-rich stories without needing to have either GIS or web development skills
  • Ability to switch between layout options, and to make other refinements to color scheme, logo use, and more
  • Responsive design, making the app work on all screen sizes including smartphones

Map Journal builder function

Map Journal stories are organized into “sections,” each of which is associated with an item on the main stage. As users scroll through the side panel narrative, the main stage changes to display relevant content. the result can be a very rich mix of maps and multimedia.

We built the Map Journal app in hopes that we’d give story map authors license to…well…go wild! And that, in fact, is what is happening. Less than three months after the app’s release, we’re seeing a dizzying variety of uses, some quite  surprising and creative. Below is a small sampling; you can find more on our curated gallery. If you have created a Story Map Journal that you think we’d like to feature, please let us know!

Below you’ll find a small sampling of Story Map Journals, organized by topic area. Click images and links to view the stories.

History: The California Geographic Alliance built a short history of the California Gold Rush. And Esri’s cartographer extraordinaire Andrew Skinner told the extraordinary story of his father’s experience during World War II. It’s not strictly history, but this Map Journal by EsriUK’s Dom Saunders plots military cemeteries across the British Commonwealth.

Science: Johnathan Bascom and his colleagues at Michigan’s Calvin College are using Map Journal to create a virtual textbook on the geography of Ethiopia. Check out their latest on Potential Vegetation. The geography department at UK’s Wilmington School for Girls is doing cool stuff, including this look at disappearing glaciers.

Conservation: NatureServe, under a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, is providing exciting tools for monitoring and protecting biodiversity around the world. Here’s their Fates Entwined: People and Biodiversity in the Mekong.

Travel: What better way to weave a travelogue than to combine maps, photos, and text? You’ll want to return again and again to John Smith’s Coast to Coast Bicycle Adventure. He’s adding to his journal as he goes. Another thoroughly-mapped travel tale: Deb and Brian’s “Finally to Newfoundland.”

Humanitarian affairs: From Turin, Italy comes “The app that brings the city to its greatest treasure.” It features detailed maps of social services available for the city’s children. Mission Rabies describes an ongoing campaign to vaccinate dogs in India against rabies, which, according to the Journal, costs the life of one Indian child every hour.

GIS: The Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity serves the immigrant community in Montgomery County, Maryland. Data Analysis for the Gilchrist Center presents a remarkably comprehensive atlas of the county’s diversity. Esri’s Liwei Fu has compiled a series of Story Map Journals examining the Ontario Mills shopping mall in Ontario, California. Among them: Leasing Space Based on Location; Brand Alliances; and Store Performance. Raphael Heath, head of geography at the Royal High School in Bath, England assembled a collection of videos, websites, and other multimedia content to into an Introduction to GIS for Students.

The most exciting and gratifying part of my work as head of Esri’s Story Maps team is discovering the rich variety of uses that our storytelling apps are being put to. I look forward to many pleasant surprises in the future. We all have stories to tell—some personal, others of real importance to society. I invite you to use our apps to tell your story. I can’t wait to see it.

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Speaking the “Language” of Spatial Analysis via Story Maps


Last update: September 16, 2014 Spatial analysis has always been a hallmark of GIS, the “numerical recipes” which set GIS apart from other forms of computerized visualization and information management. With GIS we pose questions and derive results using a … Continue reading

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Story Maps for “Bread and Butter” Applications


Story Maps are fun, easy, and informative. Their popularity is documented by the many interesting examples you will find at the Story Maps Gallery. An enduring favorite of mine is not the most sophisticated, or provocative, or one that required … Continue reading

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The 2014 Winter Olympic Story (Maps)


The 2014 Winter Olympics are upon us, and there will be lots of stories to tell both during and after the games. Several ArcGIS story maps help tell different kinds of stories that complement and provide context for what we’ll … Continue reading

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Another Year, Another 100 Million (or so)

By the time you see the image below it will be way out of date.

From Worldometers, it’s snapshot in time of the current world population which, depending on your source, is growing at a rate of somewhere between 75 and 140 million people each year. Proving, if nothing else, that humans are quite prolific.

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Celebrating Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address


“Four score and seven years ago” began what time would remember as a milestone in American history. On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, a speech that many consider among the most eloquent and important of … Continue reading

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Creating and Customizing a Story Map — From a Non-GISer

Our friends at GISi recently published a great post about how one of their non-GIS people created a story map. One of our writers had just created a Halloween-themed story map and we thought it would be interesting to learn more about his experience.

Guest Post by Robby Deming

As a writer, I never thought I would create a story map. I have some technical knowledge, but the artistry and rich functionality behind some of our story maps just seemed way out of my reach. After creating The Geography of Horror story map, I’m now proud to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only is it easy to create a story map, but it’s also relatively easy to put your own unique touch on one.

The Geography of Horror

The hardest part about creating this map? Collecting data on nearly 250 movies.

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Story Maps Speak In Many Languages

Stories are spoken in many languages, and the same is true for Story Maps. The results of a story map competition held at the recent Esri France SIG 2013 conference offered some compelling examples for me.

The winning story map merged themes of culture with urban and industrial heritage, but my favorite was a photographic tour of the Paris Metro. This was a tough selection to make over my second favorite story map about the seasonal migration (or transhumance) of people and their sheep. Of course all of these story maps are in French. Continue reading

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Smithsonian’s Story Map Examines the Shale Gas Boom

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is transforming communities across the US above shale rock layers that trap natural gas and oil. Fracking involves the injection of millions of gallons of water and other fluids into shale deposits under high pressure, causing fracturing of the surrounding rock and the release of gas through nearby wells. The extraction technique is controversial, and the resulting changes to nearby communities are argued as both good and bad.

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Smithsonian’s Historic Look at Cities


Among the current top stories on Smithsonian’s website is a “then and now” perspective of a handful of cities using David Rumsey’s historical maps and current aerial imagery in an interactive application. The applications were built using one of the … Continue reading

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