Subject Guides

Digital Scholarship

A guide to digital scholarship tools, methods, and best practices across the digital humanities and data-driven fields


What are storymaps?

someone creating a map on a tablet

Storymaps combine geospatial (map and location) information with other media, such as text, images and even video or sound, to create a multi-media experience. Storymaps can also help you create visually significant stories based on spatial data that might otherwise not come across or get muddled in traditional research platforms. They can also be used as a learning tool in classes investigating geographic data, history, or stories. 

Currently, there are three storymapping services that the digital scholarship team recommends and can help with. They all have very similar names, but they are different. Check out each of the tabs in this section to discover more about each one and which might best suit your project. 

Storymap JS

Storymap JS is part of the Knightlab suite of tools released and maintained by Northwestern University. It lets you create points on a map and add images, text, video or sounds files to those points. Users can then navigate through the points in a linear fashion, or select points on the map to explore individually. The map and additional media are displayed side-by-side and while you can customize some things within the tool it is fairly limited. 

However, Storymap JS is open access, meaning anyone can use it, and has fewer things to learn in order to get started compared to ESRI Storymaps. While it does not offer all of the visualization and formatting options as ESRI's service it does create smooth visual maps that can be viewed on their own or embedded into other projects, such as a WordPress site. 

You can learn more about Storymap JS on knightlabs website and see some example projects there as well. 

ESRI Storymaps

ESRI Storymaps or Storymaps ArcGIS offers a robust storytelling site where you can show off the maps and visualizations you have created in ArcGIS in multi-media website. It offers a variety of styling options to display your maps next to your additional content and objects. Don't have ArcGIS maps? You can create 'express' maps to use in the platform as well! Express maps don't have the huge amount of capability as those made with ArcGIS, but they can let you create points, connect places, and create other simpler visualizations. Don't have any mapping information at all? ESRI Storymaps doesn't require you to have maps to use it and can be an easy and powerful storytelling tool for anyone. 

ESRI Storymaps is only available to those affiliated with Binghamton's campus and ArcGIS is a proprietary tool that is quite expensive to purchase for an individual. However, if you are a faculty member or student at the University and expecting to either go to another campus or company that has an ArcGIS account you can migrate your project from your Binghamton account to your new one if allowed by your new space. 

Learn more about getting an ArcGIS account at Binghamton

Learn more about ESRI Storymaps is ArcGIS's free version of their Storymaps tool. It does not have the full capability as the paid version, which you have access to through your University account, but it has enough to create a multi-media site and express maps. There are a limited number of stories you can have and every story you create MUST be public on a free account. The tool was released in 2022 which makes it fairly new. Using new tools, especially free ones, can be an easy way to introduce your students to new ways to publish their research, but it can also be risky. It is hard to tell if the tool will continue to be supported by ESRI or how much the 'free' version may change. 

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