Seven Ways to Tell Your Place-Based Story: A Review of Esri’s Story Maps

For arts and culture organizations, a great deal of data is geographic in nature. There are audience and donor zip codes, as well as specific neighborhoods impacted by institutional outreach. Collection pieces are often tied to a certain time and place, as are artists’ stories and inspirations. An organization may have a lot of this data, but how can they best harness it to contextualize their work and convey a compelling story? Combining geographic information, multimedia content, and text narrative, Esri’s Story Maps is a tool that can support an organization with exactly this kind of place-based storytelling.

Story Maps Overview
Created by Esri, a leader in geographic information systems (GIS) software, Story Maps are a series of web applications that combine interactive maps, text, and multimedia content to tell stories. Story Maps are free and open source so long as you create an ArcGIS public account.

This program is compatible with both PC and Mac, and it is built on a platform that is mobile-friendly, so any content generated responds to various screen displays.  

 One of the nicest features of Story Maps is its user-friendliness. This digital platform comes with built-in functions that allow arts managers and other cultural workers with no GIS or web development skills to create and share exciting stories online about their organization’s work. Additionally, Esri offers many free, online resources for Story Map beginners. They have lesson plans, and they also provide a helpful video on how to best tell your story using their apps.

Story Maps App Templates
There are seven Story Map app templates, meaning there are several designs from which one can choose to embed multimedia content, such as photos and video, as well as interactive maps to tell a story. Below is an infographic explaining each the different templates , with links to arts and culture cases that highlight their various features. This is another benefit of the platform; as everything is open source, there are many examples from which creators can draw inspiration.