Recently developed online web application called Story Maps, by the well-known GIS (Geographical Information Systems) company ESRI is making it easier to tell a story about an archaeological project, or site, or topic, and in doing so broaden your impact and reach on the internet. ESRI Story Maps are a new strategy for combining geographic information with text, images and multimedia content in an easily shareable web interface. We found Story Maps especially useful for presenting historic archaeology to the public, as archaeological and archival data can be juxtaposed to present a more complete story, but they can be just as effectively used to tell archaeological stories from prehistory.
Story Maps are somewhat like a web page, but offer a better directed flow of information, and the ability to present geographically grounded data in such a way that the viewers can fine tune the intensity of their viewing. Viewers can either give your Story Map a summary look, quickly browsing through your “panels” or “pages” or explore in more detail linking to embedded multimedia content to learn about what has been found, and where. Once a template is selected and set up, it is mostly a process of uploading images, text, and multi-media files.
Our own experience comes from constructing a Story Map for an archaeological survey of the Beech Grove Confederate encampment in Wayne County that was part of the Battle of Mill Springs. This survey was completed by McBride Preservation Services and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, with funding from the American Battlefield Protection Program and the Mill Springs Battlefield Association. Because of the National Park Service’s role in our project, we used one of the four templates [the map journal] that ESRI has made available to the National Park Service and limited site locational data. However, ESRI has other templates available for more general use, and others may work better for getting into detailed site mapping. Our Story Map is hosted on the ESRI servers, but other arrangements can also be made.
We will include a few screen shots from our Story Map but hope you will browse through it using the url listed below.
Our story map combined archaeological data with audio content, images, maps, and text to create a unique learning experience for the general public. We had a rich source of period quotes from Civil War soldiers, both Confederate and Union, who were at Beech Grove, which were recorded with the help of many Mill Springs Battlefield Association supporters, and others. We tried to match up accents, so for example, if the soldier was from Minnesota we tried to find someone from Minnesota to read that quote. We were faced with a challenge to incorporate closed captioning into our Story Map. Because the use of sound bites in Story Maps is very new, we had to experiment but solved the problem by embedding our sound via You Tube. Because we were restricted to not reveal detailed site locational information, our use of locational data was limited to static maps and artifact feature patterns. But in other Story Maps on more public sites, detailed maps showing archaeological resources makes more sense.
Here are some other links to Story Maps with an archaeological content that we hope you find interesting.
An Introduction from ESRI. And from here you can browse the ESRI Gallery of Story Maps, though most will not be archaeological in focus, they could still give you good ideas of the various structures available.
Heritage Lidar (from work in the Helena National Forest, in Montana)
Forgotten No Longer: Mount Vernon’s Slave Cemetery (yes, the George Washington’s Mt Vernon!)
A Counter-Map of Setauket, New York (about a Native and African American community on Long Island, New York)
By Kim McBride and Philip Mink, Kentucky Archaeological Survey