By Everett Lasher
This guide will help you construct your own MapStory Campus project. For an example, see my MapStory on Dickinson College campus here. This guide is meant for individuals who have at least an introductory knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and shapefile management. If you have little to no experience navigating GIS programs, you should review some of the basics at any of these following sites (depending on your preferred platform).
For ArcGIS users
For QGIS users
For OpenGeo users
Let’s get started: Obtain your data!
The complexity of your story is completely up to you, but a good starting point is tracking down some geometry (shapefiles) for your campus. The MapStory Campus projects to date have largely focused on the expanding footprint of college buildings over time, but you can add whatever you want/find. If you’ve spent any time searching for data before, you will know that this can be the tricky part. Where are you going to get shapefiles of your campus? A good place to start is with your college/university archivist, planner, architect or facilities manager. Most institutions already have all the data you’ll ever need in at least some format. On occasion, your school might have a common GIS library, and more often than not, there is plenty of data ready for the taking. If none of these are an option, there are some alternatives to get the data you’ll need to proceed. For example, OpenStreetMap is an incredible resource, and several data extractors have been developed to pull and create shapefiles. See the OpenStreetMap wiki page here. If you have some experience with creating your own shapefiles, you can digitize new features from a satellite image or from a georeferenced map of your campus. Digitizing in ArcGIS, Digitizing in QGIS, Digitizing in OpenGeo
Compile the temporal component!
If you’re familiar with MapStory, you know that time is a key component to make your story work. When building the MapStory Campus project, adding the time to your data is often the best part. Depending on the quality and source of your data, you may already have dates for your data. If you’re working with building footprint shapefiles, each feature (building) will need to have a date associated with it. This could be construction date, dedication, opening, whatever. It is a good idea to be consistent with whatever you choose and be sure to document what the date represents when you publish. If your data does not have the time component, you will need to track this information down. Again, the university archivist, planner etc. is a good place to go. Finding construction dates and the like can be a very interesting glimpse into the history of your institution, and like any historical research project multiple sources are likely to be involved.
You can be as specific as you like on the date associated with your features. Year, month, day, minutes if you so desire. If you have questions about what format your dates need to be in, please consult the time manual here. Once you’ve found sources for your dates, its time to edit the data in a GIS program.
Edit the data!
Load your data into a GIS program. If your data doesn’t have a time attribute yet, you will need to start an editing session and create a new column to add your dates to. ArcGIS Attribute Help, QGIS Attribute Help, OpenGeo Attribute Help
In the example above, I’ve only entered a year for the date, but again, you may want to be more specific. To have your data work in MapStory, all the features must have a valid date, that is, you cannot leave any rows blank. Feel free to add any other attributes you want at this point too, i.e. building names, departments, construction material. Be sure to save your edits! Also, if you want to be able to classify your features by date when you style the data on the site, you will need to create a duplicate date column (this will make more sense later). The reason for this is that when you upload data to MapStory, the site will convert the date column you pick into a new format that will be slightly different than what you entered yourself. If this is confusing, disregard and move along.
You may also choose to add end dates to your features, though this isn’t required to make your story work. For example, you might have a date for a building that was demolished at one point. If you choose to add end dates to your data, just as with the date column, all features must have a valid entry. One simple fix for features that haven’t been demolished it to enter a date some time in the future.
Load your data!
Now for the fun part. Once you’ve logged in to the MapStory site, go to the upload storylayers page. There are number of useful video tutorials and explanations on the MapStory site for how to upload data. You will need the .shp, .shx, .prj and .dbf components of the shapefile to continue. If you entered the date attributes correctly while editing your data, you should be able to choose that column when uploading. If everything loads correctly, you should be taken to the storylayer page. Here you should take a moment to enter in the appropriate metadata.
Create a MapStory!
A MapStory is more than just loading a shapefile, its about creating a narrative to go along with your data. While you may just have data about the buildings that make up your institution, bricks and mortar are merely one aspect that you will want to share. You will want to add information about important historical events associated with your school, presidents, athletic titles, riots, landmark graduates, etc. At the simplest level, you will want to take the raw data you’ve just uploaded, and make it look good! To do this, you need to create a MapStory.
One of the first steps will often be “styling” your MapStory, that is, taking the raw storylayer and applying a distinctive and descriptive look and feel. Again, if you are familiar with symbology in ArcGIS, QGIS or OpenGeo, you will know that you can pick various attributes associated with your data and classify different colors or styles. I mentioned earlier that you might want to classify by date, that is break down the color scheme by year, decade, century etc.
If you haven’t practiced with styling on MapStory before, I suggest watching the styling-how-to video available here. Depending on if you added an end date or not, you will want to switch the playback on your story to cummulative. This is done by selecting the button and selecting your desired playback.
Let’s assume that you want to style your story by classifying the year the buildings were built, help the viewers see patterns in the evolution of the campus footprint. We click the button and we’re off.
I already duplicated the “date” field with “Date_Built” behind the scenes, and am now using this field to classify my colors. What this image above shows is that whenever the “Date_Built” field is less than or equal to 1800, the style of that feature is going to be a bright pink outline of the building. You can add as many Rules as you like to classify your features, build choropleths and vary shapes and outlines. It will take some time to get used to styling, but stick with it. Once you’ve finished styling, save your map and give it a nice abstract. You will want to edit the map metadata just as you did your storylayer metadata. If you’re satisfied, you will want to publish, that is allow others in the MapStory community to see your work. This is done under the info tab where you edit the metadata.
Once you have saved your map, you have the option to add annotations. Creating the narrative to go with your story is just as if not more important than styling. By using the notes feature, you can add important milestones and events to the timeline. You may wish to review the annotations video here. These annotations will appear in the timeline, and if you choose also as pop up bubbles on your map that will appear and disappear as your story plays. Viewers can hit play and watch the story progress naturally, or can use the timeline slider to move to certain points in time on your story.
Sit back and enjoy the show!
That’s it! You’ve just created a MapStory Campus project. Share it with the MapStory community, tell your friends, and of course, Happy MapStoryTelling!