We're building a global historical atlas. Join us!
MapStory.org is the world’s first open source, crowdsourced, and editable atlas of world history. On this platform, you can contribute data (StoryLayers) and make narratives (MapStories) that help us all better understand how our world has evolved geographically over time. MapStory.org is a work in progress, sustained by the nonprofit MapStory Foundation, and sponsors and volunteers like you. On this page we walk you through a series of tutorials to get started using MapStory.org. If you need help at any time, send a message to another storyteller or submit a “feedback” ticket and our Core Team will take a look!
The 3 big tasks you can take on with MapStory...
The MapStory community’s work breaks down into 3 big tasks. We call them the “3 Cs”. First, once you’ve created a profile, you can collect spatio-temporal data and import it. We call each dataset imported into MapStory.org a “StoryLayer”. Second you can compose MapStories that provide nuanced understanding of historical change by combining StoryLayers and other narrative elements, like images, text, or video. Finally, you can curate the accuracy and quality of content presented in MapStory.org by adding ratings, checking metadata, making comments and committing version edits to the actual StoryLayers themselves, much like you might edit a Wikipedia page. In the videos below, we walk you through all of these tasks. And there’s lots more help over on the Wiki.
Step 1: Start exploring
The MapStory.org Explore page is your starting point for understanding how your world evolves geographically, over time. To start exploring, hit the “Explore” button at the top of the page. This will take you to a page where you can start searching for StoryLayers, MapStories and the Storytellers who created this content. A set of Filters will help you search by the topics, places and time periods that most interest you. Have fun!
Step 2: Compose Your First MapStory
Once you’ve logged in and done some exploring, try making your first MapStory. Think of a MapStory as a form of digital communication – like a YouTube video or a Tweet – that is specifically focused on visualizing some element of historical change on Earth. We believe that human beings ultimately understand their world through stories – not just objective statements of fact. And, even if we agree on facts, our perspective can affect the meaning we take from them. So, with a MapStory you have the freedom to combine fact and perspective to explain how you see the world. Head over to the MapStory Composer to begin building your first MapStory, or click below for a full walk-through of the MapStory composing process.
Step 3: Create a StoryLayer by Importing Data
StoryLayers are datasets that have attributes for Latitude, Longitude and Time. They can cover a global topic, such as the spread of Starbucks stores worldwide. Or, they could be very local, perhaps mapping out every building built in a town. Any StoryLayers marked open for community editing can be edited for completeness and accuracy. To create a StoryLayer by importing data, use the Import StoryLayer link at the top of your page. Currently, MapStory.org accepts data imports in the form of .CSV for point StoryLayers and .SHP for StoryLayers with lines and polygons. Every StoryLayer must have a time attribute, even if it just represents a single moment in time. And .SHP files must use a common projection, such as 4326, 3857 or 900913. Watch the video for more detail and click the link below for more tutorials and downloadable example datasets.
Step 4: Create a new StoryLayer from Scratch
If you have knowledge about a topic that would make a great StoryLayer, but don’t have any data to import, you can simply create one from scratch inside MapStory.org. Click Create StoryLayer in the MapStory.org header. You will be asked to give your StoryLayer a title, determine what kind features it will have (points, lines or polygons), and to define any attributes you will collect besides time, which is a required attribute field. Finally, you’ll be asked whether or not you want to make your new StoryLayer open for community editing so that others can add features to your StoryLayer to make it more complete!
Step 5: Edit Your First StoryLayer
Most StoryLayers in MapStory.org are open for community editing. This means that if you see something in the StoryLayer that is missing, or that is wrong, you are free to make an edit. Every StoryLayer edit is tracked, much like editing in a Wikipedia article, and our community editors monitor activity to adjudicate disputes. Gradually, over time, we hope community editing will make our StoryLayers the most complete and accurate representations of a particular topic that exists anywhere online. Check out this video to see how to make your first edit, or use the link below to get more help with editing StoryLayers.
Step 6: Peer Review StoryLayers
Peer reviewing StoryLayers helps forge consensus around the StoryLayers that best represent a given topic. It also helps ensure that storytellers use the highest quality StoryLayers in the MapStories they compose. To review a StoryLayer, give it a rating. A one star rating means the StoryLayer is extremely inaccurate and incomplete. A five star rating means its extremely accurate and complete. If you see a StoryLayer that is broken or inappropriate and in need of review by an administrator, flag it. Finally, you can share your feedback publicly by adding a threaded comment to the StoryLayer, or privately by sending the StoryLayer owner a direct message.
Step 7: Join the Volunteer Technical Community
Once you feel comfortable contributing to MapStory.org, consider helping others by joining the Volunteer Technical Community (VTC). The VTC is simply a subset of storytellers that checks a box on their Profile indicating their willingness to help others with questions. A storyteller with a question can then search for storytellers that are part of the VTC and, perhaps, share their interests or work from a similar location. Its a way for us to organically help each other out! Watch the video for more explanation by one of our favorite storytellers, Betsy Emmons, or head over to the Explore page to search for storytellers that are VTC members.
Step 8: Use MapStory to bring people together
Even in our digital world, the best work still gets done when human beings come together face-to-face. Try working with your local MapTime chapter to organize a community editathon. Or, if you’re a teacher, incorporate MapStory into a lesson or an afterschool program. Or, take inspiration from Deborah Berry and organize a summer program for high school students at a local library to compose MapStories about issues you care about! Check out the video to hear Deborah’s story, and visit the Wiki to find materials to help you organize your event.
Step 9: Launch a Community Initiative
Community Initiatives are large-scale data collection projects that the MapStory Foundation gets involved with supporting and promoting. A Community Initiative might focus in on building a single massive StoryLayer, or on building a set of StoryLayers on a common theme. Each Community Initiative is assigned a set of Initiative Leads that set the rules for contribution and track progress. Check out the video to hear Karl Phillips’ story of becoming the Lead for the Boundaries & Annexations Community Initiative, and email email@example.com to pitch your idea for a new Initiative that the MapStory Foundation should support!