It was only a few months ago that I first heard the term “story map.” During a meeting with our National Preservation Conference sponsors, Esri, we were discussing how the National Trust could make better use of GIS technology in our work to save places. In particular, we wanted to find an effective way to explain how new transmission lines, which Dominion Virginia Power proposes to install across the James River near Jamestown, will affect the historic and natural resources of the river basin. As we brainstormed about different applications that could be useful in supporting the National Trust’s advocacy efforts at James River, story maps came up as a unique way to present information from a geographic perspective. These applications allow a story map author to present information in an interactive and content-rich format. After spending a little time looking at Esri’s story map templates, we decided that this would be an excellent tool for the National Trust to add to our advocacy toolkit. [Learn about another tool: 3D Modeling.]
We were concerned, however, that we didn’t have sufficient technical expertise to make this tool work for us. Our contacts at Esri quickly explained that this tool is easy to learn and easy to use. They said that once you identify data layers that suit the story, the remaining steps in creating the map are familiar to anyone who has drafted blog posts or other online content. With that assurance in mind, we decided to move forward and see what we could create for the James River. We also identified a few other stories that would support the work of the National Trust and demonstrate the versatility of the templates as a medium for storytelling.
Because we wanted to present these story maps at the National Preservation Conference—and it was already October—we turned to Esri to help us get a jumpstart. In mid-October, Esri led the National Trust’s internal story map team in a five hour, in-depth workshop. Our goal was to have substantial drafts of each story map completed by the end of the day. Our story map team included participants with a range of GIS and computer skill levels from complete novice to advanced users. At the end of the workshop, two of the story maps were well on their way to completion. The other one required a bit more work, but that additional time was attributable more to editorial content concerns than any technical issues with the story map applications. In a nutshell, story maps were as described--user-friendly and simple to learn. Anyone can sign up for a free 30-day trial of ArcGIS online and have immediate access to this tool.
With that background, it’s time to let these story maps speak for themselves.
The James River National Treasure
This story map tells the story of the threat to preservation of the James River at Jamestown.
Older, Smaller, Better - The “Character Score”
This map explains the development of the Character Score metric by Preservation Green Lab in its groundbreaking Older, Smaller, Better research report.
Take a tour of the different HOPE Crew project locations from around the country.#JamesRiver #11Most #mapping #NationalTreasure #Savannah2014 #Education #PreservationTools #PastForward
The range of content told here illustrates the flexibility of this medium to tell a variety of stories that support the work of preservation. Preservationists intuitively understand that to save a place, people must care about it. Presenting well-crafted stories with compelling visuals and interactive content can provide people with the information that they need to understand the importance of a place. Story maps are a powerful new outreach tool to support these efforts.
Sharee Williamson is an Associate General Counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.