Get Started


Help sustain our global community of mapstorytellers!

MapStory is the free atlas of change that everyone can edit. We are a community, not a company, working to organize humanity’s shared knowledge about how the world evolves geographically over time, and to make this knowledge easily accessible as an open educational resource. Our work is sustained by the nonprofit MapStory Foundation and dedicated volunteers and sponsors. Make a donation, and help MapStory keep improving!


Make a donation!



Step 1: Collect and import StoryLayers

StoryLayers are datasets that have attributes for Latitude, Longitude and Time. StoryLayers can cover global topics, such as the spread of Starbucks stores worldwide, or local ones, like every building built in a town. StoryLayers open for community editing can be edited for completeness and accuracy by any registered Storyteller. To create a StoryLayer by importing data, use the Import StoryLayer link in the Create tab above. Currently, MapStory.org accepts data imports in .CSV or .SHP formats. To see an example of a dataset ready for import into MapStory, click the link below.


See an example dataset



Step 2: Curate StoryLayers for Completeness and Accuracy

Curating StoryLayers helps to make them more complete and accurate. You can curate StoryLayers by providing feedback through ratings, comments and flags. Or, you can go a step further and make edits to StoryLayers themselves. In the editor, you can add, modify, or delete features and attribute information. All changes made are tracked and can be rolled back to a previous version, similar to edits made to a Wikipedia page.


Check out a StoryLayer that has been edited



Step 3: Compose a MapStory

If you can write a Tweet or share a photo on Facebook, then you can compose a MapStory. To get started, log in and click Compose MapStory from the Create tab above. As human beings, we all experience the world differently. MapStories help us share these experiences while also rooting them in data drawn from StoryLayers. For more help composing a MapStory, click the link below to access the guide located on the MapStory Wiki.


Check out an example MapStory



Step 4: Help others in the MapStory community

Once you feel comfortable collecting data, curating StoryLayers and composing MapStories, consider helping others by joining the Volunteer Technical Community (VTC). The VTC is simply a subset of storytellers that checks the box on their Profile indicating their willingness to help others. A storyteller with a question can then search for storytellers that are part of the VTC and send a message with their question.


Search for VTC Members



Step 5: Having trouble? Submit an issue for our developers

If you encounter any issues while using MapStory, or have an idea to make the platform better, just use the Feedback button at the bottom of your screen to submit a ticket. Once submitted, the ticket will go directly to our open-source developer community where it will be reviewed and added to our backlog of issues hosted on Github. Good ideas can come from anywhere, including from you! So please don’t hesitate to reach out.


Find MapStory on Github



Step 6: Launch a Community Initiative

Every year the MapStory Foundation works with sponsors and mapstorytellers to spearhead Community Initiatives around priority content areas. Right now the MapStory community is working together on Initiatives that address invasive species, political gerrymandering, women’s history, urbanization, and more. If you have an idea for a future Community Initiative, or you would like to financially support a Community Initiative, email initiatives@mapstory.org.


Read about a Community Initiative featured in Atlantic Magazine



Step 7: Launch an Organization Page

Organization Page subscriptions offer companies, museums, academic institutions, and government agencies an e-portfolio with a a branded URL where they can pool the StoryLayers and MapStories created by their employees into one place. Revenue from Organization Page subscriptions enables the MapStory Foundation to cover operating expenses and avoid charging individuals, selling ads, or sharing user data, as other corporate social platforms often do. To inquire about an Organization page, email organizations@mapstory.org.


Read more about Organization pages



Use MapStory to transform libraries

According to the Aspen Institute, “The emerging value proposition of the public library is built around three key assets—people, place and platform—and the ability to scale in a world of knowledge and social networks.” We agree! MapStory provides librarians with an open source platform to contribute knowledge about people and places as they evolve over time. The process of collecting data and composing MapStories is a great way to engage patrons in STEAM skills and bring libraries into closer connection with the communities they serve.


Sign up now!



Use MapStory for spatial journalism

Journalists work tirelessly to give us perspective about the things driving change in our world. Maps are a great tool for explaining difficult topics, but for too long mapping tools have been either too difficult for journalists to use, or too expensive. This leaves only large newspapers with big budgets and large staffs in a position to add interactive map components to stories. MapStory aims to make it both easier and cheaper for journalists everywhere to map data over time in a way that helps them tell the complex stories that need to be told.


Sign up now!



Use MapStory for STEAM learning

History and geography are about much more than memorizing places, time periods and events. Understanding how, why and where our world changes over time is the lens through which we can understand everything! MapStory can help turn students into knowledge creators. Students can conduct original research as part of an independent study or service-learning project, engage in critical thinking about the work of others, and compose MapStories that show off their STEAM skills.


Sign up now!



Use MapStory for research in the digital humanities

All researchers share some common problems. They waste time searching for data that probably already exists somewhere. They struggle to collaborate with colleagues in other disciplines that have knowledge they need. And, their research probably has some spatial and temporal component, since everything that occurs on Earth ultimately occurs somewhere at sometime. MapStory was created by researchers who also suffered from these problems and wanted a simpler way to share data across disciplines that advances the global knowledge base about what has happened where, when and why on Earth. MapStory is an open source project that needs your leadership to succeed. Join us!


Sign up now!



Use MapStory to give humanitarian relief historical perspective

Humanitarian workers need good data about the places where they operate. If you are digging bore holes or building schools, for example, you better have some understanding about history. When and where have these things been built before? By whom? Did they make an impact? For whom? StoryLayers can provide visual summaries of what exists, while MapStories can provide deeper explanations of why and how change occurs.


Sign up now!