Digital Scholarship: Old School Methods and New School Tools.

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By Rebekah Silverstein, Graduate Student, School of Library and Information Studies

Voguish terminology is abundant in academic librarianship, especially when referring to words about learning. Academic scholars are qualified to incorporate compound words to express what they mean. By tacking together familiar words, like digital hygiene, digital literacy, and digital scholarship, for example, scholars generate innovative ways to communicate.

“inventing new words helps us to grab people’s attention and get them to focus on what you’re saying”.

Erin McKean. Lexicographer, TedYouth2014

Digital Scholarship (DS) is an expression that blends two words together, a positive connotation marrying technology and learning.

Academic libraries implement digital scholarship (DS) for research, teaching, and learning. DS Librarians provide individual consultation to graduate students, faculty, and staff and they support the exploration of open tools and critical learning resources to engage academics in active learning . DS also fosters transdisciplinary relationships between libraries and academic institutions. 

Sharing is considered a virtue, and within scholarly work, it promotes an institution’s visibility and highlights a scholar’s digital identity. This idea of digital identity is supported by Christina Costas work, she introduces the participatory web as a space for collaboration and sharing. Costa uses the term Participatory Web to mean:

“a set of digital communication networks, applications, and environments of which individuals act as active participants, contributors, and co-creators of information, knowledge, and opinions, which contribute to what she refers to as the habitus of digital scholars”

Christina Costa

The participatory web not only creates new paths for intellectuals, but it also helps emancipate education for different groups of society; students, communities, and minorities who ultimately are the audiences higher education serves to reach. 

 OU create is a free to low-cost web hosting platform available through the University of Oklahoma. It offers students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to register a domain and create a digital identity through various mediums such as blogs, portfolios, and Wikis.

OU faculty can receive consultation from the Digital Learning Office or Digital Scholarship Lab to integrate WordPress, Omeka, and Drupal lessons into their curriculum. Faculty and staff have utilized OU Create to publish curriculum vitae’s(CV) and digital portfolios that can be shared or openly linked. 

Faculty who incorporate emerging technologies within pedagogy are engaging critically in DS. Renewable assignments provide students with opportunities to engage in meaningful work, add value to the world, and provide a foundation for future students to learn from and build upon.

An example of renewable assignments are Wikis, web-based tools allowing users to collaboratively add/delete/modify content directly from the web browser; the most famous wiki is Wikipedia. Educators are actively using wikis to develop and engage civic skills of critical thinking, deliberation, thoughtful listening, and dialogue, particularly with opposing views and perspectives.

The Digital Skills Hub was initiated to help students and faculty be better informed about emerging technologies and access services throughout OU’s campus. The Digital Skills Hub provides opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration through workshops and presentations, which are offered by subject experts in the community.

The Digital Skills Hub not only teaches participants how to use emerging technologies, but how to be critical digital consumers of the value added by these technologies. 

Although higher education institutions are in favor of innovation, their pace in promoting change and adopting new practices is often slower than other areas and sectors of society. However, the University of Oklahoma’s Interim Dean of Libraries, Carl Grant, is invested in exploring digital literacy.

Libraries can serve as a hub that connects stakeholders under a larger umbrella to enhance communication and promote resources. Libraries have long been one of the most trusted entities in society. Campuses are often a microcosm of the larger society they serve, and the libraries in academia serve this same role for the university they serve.

Carl Grant

 The University of Oklahoma Libraries is invested in building a transdisciplinary community, which utilizes new tools and insights to support the continuous exploration of digital scholarship.

 Digital Scholarship @ OU Libraries has partnered with the History Department since Spring 2018 to offer internships, where undergraduate students work with the DS team to learn digital humanities(DH) methods and create individual DH research projects. The head of the DS team, Tara Carlisle, is a dynamic individual, she serves as a consultant and contributes to an array of hubs including, Digital Skills Hub, and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Tara diplomatically networks with the universities experts to provide DS consultations for all faculty, staff, and students.

The Digital Scholarship team is culturally congruent with OU Libraries competencies because information workers understand the importance of critical scholarship and they place emphasis on Open, transformative, empowered culture.

Regular workshops and brown bag lunch learning opportunities are offered throughout the academic year to help faculty, students, and staff to explore and engage with new-school digital tools. The DS team develops learning aids and tutorials that are integrated within DAVIS, Digital Skills Hub, Canvas, and University Library guides

Transdisciplinary tools might include Open Refine an application for data clean up, ArcGIS a tool for mapping and analysis, or a DAVIS software carpentries workshop for teaching and engaging academics in programming computer code.

The intersection of the old school methods and new-school tools is where critical librarianship and digital scholarship live. OU libraries have embraced new technologies and are exploring tools to provide democratic access to learning. Digital Scholarship @ OU Libraries serves as a compass to help academics master and navigate the deluge of information.

Using the DSL: From the Perspective of a PhD Student

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By Michelle Busch
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Oklahoma

When I started my PhD, I assumed my dissertation would be entirely focused on the ecology of rivers. However, I have sinced joined the National Research Traineeship (NRT) program supported by the National Science Foundation through the Oklahoma Biological Survey and Aeroecology. This program focuses on introducing students to interdisciplinary science while working on an interdisciplinary team. These courses not only got me to think about broadening my research but also prepared me for working with my advisor on an interdisciplinary team called the Dry Rivers Research Coordination Network (DryRivers RCN).

dry river bed
An example of an intermittent stream in southeastern Oklahoma

The DryRivers RCN is all about bringing ecologists and hydrologists from around the world to answer big questions about rivers and streams that do not flow all year. These water bodies are often referred to as intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams (IRES). One of the first questions that came up during an early meeting was defining what IRES actually are: how are these different words used to describe rivers that do not flow year round defined in the literature?; Are some words used more for a particular topic or in a specific field?; How has the use of these words changed over time?; Are there geographical patterns associated with these different words?

These questions led me to start to think about text mining; an area of research that I had barely heard of let alone worked in before this research group. So I did some Googling, and tried to find statistical packages that I could use to help me answer these questions. At the beginning, my process was very slow, and I wasn’t sure what questions I would be able to answer. I had gone to OU Librarians before to get help with coding and presentations, and during a help session I was directed to the Digital Scholarship Lab. There I met Sarah Pugachev, and there my big issues with text mining were over.

Sarah seemed to get invested in my project right away; we talked about the questions and the best ways to think about them, and she introduced me to other programs and taught me new ways to clean my text data. Not only was Sarah there during my appointments, she was also friendly when I would stop by for a quick question while I was waiting for my coffee. Together, we found a new package, textmineR, that offers a way to do topic modeling that defines your topics for you, which was one of my biggest issues with text mining. Sarah also was able to describe theories behind text mining to me and helped me better understand what my questions meant. Learning how to analyze text data and learning how to program better in general was immensely useful, encouraging, and helped me stay motivated.

Graph of initial results from the topic modeling analysis.
Initial results from the topic modeling analyses across the ten corpora.

Without the Digital Scholarship Lab, I would not have been able to complete a presentation for my international conference this Spring, and the manuscript that I am now working on would still feel like a distant, aspirational goal. Getting help at the Digital Scholarship Lab was easy, comfortable, and beyond useful. If there was a question I couldn’t figure out on my own, Sarah would either do her best to explain it or we would spend some time trying to Google the answers to figure it out together. Sarah assured me that no question was too basic or simple, and assured me we were learning together. The OU Library is an incredible resource for researchers trying to learn new skills, and I am so grateful for their time and help.

graph of results displaying how topics around all 10 initial search terms have changed
Results displaying how the topics around all 10 of our initial search terms have changed over time.
Graph of Initial results of the number of papers published using these different terms have changed from 1990 to 2018.
Initial results of the number of papers published using these different terms have changed from 1990 to 2018.

Reference: textmineR package

John Steinbeck’s America

By Sarah Pugachev, Digital Scholarship Librarian
At the Digital Scholarship Lab, we love working with faculty to incorporate digital humanities tools into their courses. Which is why we were ecstatic back in Spring 2017, when David Wrobel, Dean of OU College of Arts and Sciences, David L. Boren Professor, and Merrick Chair of Western American History, invited us to participate his class entitled “John Steinbeck’s America.” Working closely with David and our subject librarians, Laurie Scrivener and Liorah Golomb, we developed two distinct DH components of the course that fit in with the course’s objectives.

Annotating Steinbeck

The first project involved annotating Steinbeck’s works using a tool called We loaded a selection of Steinbeck’s works into Canvas as OCR‘ed PDFs. As an in-class assignment students worked through the text doing a close reading. Working on different chapters, groups of students looked through the text identifying different themes. They then had a discussion in the text around these themes.

David Wrobel has an article in The Steinbeck Review with more information about the course and his experience incorporating DH into the course.

For more about how works and how it was used in this course, please see the video below.

Creating Exhibits

Screenshot from steinbeck.oucreate.comThe second project involved the students creating online exhibits on different themes related to Steinbeck’s life and works. They used the online exhibit platform, Omeka for this purpose. As an aside, we are super fortunate at OU to have access to OU Create, where we were easily able to set up and  host the Omeka site for free. The topics covered include Steinbeck and Oklahoma, Steinbeck’s Travels, Steinbeck and War, Steinbeck on Stage and Screen, and East of Eden.

In Fall 2018, OU History Graduate student, Mette Flynt did amazing work editing the exhibits and website allowing us to publically launch the site in 2018. You can view the published projects at

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Featured DH’er: Chelsea Smith-Antonides

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Chelsea Smith-Antonides is one of the DSL’s Summer History Interns. Read more about her experiences below and check out her final project Soviet Deportation: The Forced Deportations and Ethnic Cleansing under Stalin.

Picture of Chelsea carrying the History Department banner at graduation
Chelsea carrying the History Department banner at graduation

I’m a recent graduate with a degree in both Russian and History, so this summer I really wanted to incorporate both of these fields into a single research project in the DSL. I decided to focus on Stalin’s forced deportations and ethnic cleansing in the Soviet Union. This was a topic that I’ve been wanting to learn more about, and it was also something that would utilize my Russian language skills, my curiosity about history, and research skills as a historian. By the end of my internship I would learn a lot more!

The beginning of my project was spent digging for preliminary research with JSTOR and books on Soviet history. I had some books in mind from my classes on Russian history, so I started writing up notes and organizing them based on topic. I also used JSTOR to chase sources that scholarly articles used in their notes, which really helped me compare different figures and data and find some major names in Soviet studies that a lot of researchers referenced. I created charts with Excel to hold the figures on ethnic groups that Stalin targeted, kept links to images and maps, and soon had nearly 30 pages to work with!

I focused my research on approximately a dozen specific ethnic groups that Stalin targeted for execution, imprisonment and deportation. This would keep the project fairly limited in scale, while also giving the bigger picture on ethnic cleansing. Soon I had data on how many people of each group were killed outright, sent to gulags, or deported to settlements, and how many died as a result of this treatment. When working with so many figures, making charts was the best way to keep the numbers organized so I could reference them easily.

With Sarah and Tara’s help, I tried out different DSL tutorials like Omeka, Timeline JS, Voyant, and ArcGIS. They’re all really interesting and help you visualize information in different cool ways, and each had benefits. We selected ArcGIS Story Maps because it has a great and easy-to-use interface for creating a historical narrative, and it allowed me to combine those other tools. For example, I used Timeline JS to create a brief timeline of major Soviet events. With the framework in place, I started pulling content from my notes and organizing it, slowly creating a structured narrative around Soviet policy and why Stalin’s actions were a crime against humanity, and, in the end, why it is not discussed enough. With ArcGIS, I could combine historical photographs and interactive mapping to complement the research that I did to create a full, enriched hub of information. I was able to create a map of the Northern Caucasus, for instance, highlight specific regions of it, and input facts into the map so readers could click around and learn about the groups that I focused on, like the Chechens and Ingush. I could also pinpoint specific locations where massacres or mass deportations took place. I also used Tableau to create interactive charts to represent pools of populations. This is a great way to make statistics interactive, comparable, and easy to visualize. Using StoryMaps really helped me focus my research, too, discarding information that would not fit with the project and research new images and data that would compliment it.

Map created by Cheslea showing the original locations of targeted ethnic groups.
Map created by Chelsea in ArcGIS Online showing the original locations of targeted ethnic groups.

Next, I used Russian museum websites for both data and images, and learned a bit about licensing in other countries, too. With this, I knew which content I could use for my project and which I could not. It was a challenge to find images large enough for the interactive sections, as many around the web are saved in small formats or inaccessible due to copyright. It was a lot of fun to practice my translation abilities and look through interactive maps and photograph collections created by Russian scholars. It piqued a new interest as well: looking into creating a bridge to scholars in Russia, sharing museum and historical sources to make them available on a global scale.

The media aspect of Story Maps helped me add a deeper connection to the subject by adding features on individuals affected by the gulags, as well as sections dedicated to specific ethnic and religious groups persecuted by Stalin and the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs(NKVD). I also made sure to dedicate a section to the NKVD itself so those who are not familiar with Soviet history could learn what they did and how they were involved. I also learned a lot myself: I didn’t know about Stalin’s persecutions against the Jewish population or his plans to rid the Soviet Union of its Jewish population, and I didn’t know that he deported entire ethnicities, tens of thousands of people, in a single day. This quickly became a major learning experience for me and that fueled my wish to share it.

The project became something that I’m very proud of. Each day of my internship has been incredibly enjoyable and engaging. I accomplished a lot of research and have already shared a great deal of this information with the OU community, something that I could not have done without the Digital Scholarship Lab’s help. Further, I never knew about tools like ArcGIS or Timeline JS and it was amazing learning how to use them. It has been very eye-opening, and I now find myself a huge advocate for digital scholarship and how these sites help keep history, and memory, alive.

What Else I’ve Learned:
Through the summer I’ve also been learning how to code with Python using tutorials from Code Academy and exercises developed by the DSL team. This is invaluable experience that will help me both create digital historical projects on my own and give me great technical skills when I move forward in my career. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun! I didn’t have a lot of coding experience beyond HTML and I was surprised how much I could learn in a short period of time. I even began making my own games with Python on my own time! At the DSL, there’s always something new, fun and innovative to learn. I encourage all of you to go and see them!

Featured DH’er – Wendy Jordan

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Each month the Digital Scholarship Lab highlights a campus colleague who is working on a digital humanities project. 
Hi Wendy, So what degree are you pursuing and what are your research interests (both related to your degree and otherwise)?

I am currently a Senior Undergraduate History Major, with plans to pursue a MA degree in Museum Studies afterword. I have a particular interest in Medieval England and Scandinavia. I enjoy these periods as a whole, but if I had to narrow it down further, I’d say I particularly enjoy the Norwegian Civil War era (c. 1130-1240), 14th Century England, and The War of the Roses (1455-1485).

Tell us about your work in the DSL — what have you learned about digital scholarship through your DSL internship — and how do you hope your project will contribute to scholarship at OU?

At the DSL, I’ve learned several new skills and gained new experience. My computer and technological skills were very limited when starting, and with the DSL I have been able to gain a basic foundation; including the use of Omeka for website creation and publishing, Neatline Map to create an interactive map filled with pictures, texts, overlays of medieval maps, and location points, TimeLine JS for creating clickable Timelines with their template, and Family Echo for creating a family tree with pictures and dates. An essential part of utilizing these tools was gaining some basic HTML in order to tweak the results to what I desired for the site.

My goal for the site is that it can be used as an interactive secondary source for undergraduate students researching the period, and as a great place to look for other academic works to use in research, as every book in the bibliography can be found in OU’s library. Hopefully, professors who teach subjects relevant to the period can find uses for their own classes; either with pictures, the map to show locations, or the family tree to demonstrate familial relationships that are important, or as a place to recommend as a starting-point for further research.

How do you hope to apply the DH skills you have acquired to your research interests in the future, and what other DH skills are you interested in acquiring? 

I believe these skills will help in my future career, because it is nearly impossible to find a job anymore without some kind of computer knowledge and experience, and this experience has given me the chance to learn those skills. I would love to get better with HTML, and learn more Omeka plug-ins as they are released. I would also like to gain more experience with digitizing old books and documents for public consumption on the web, as I feel that providing these documents on the web greatly helps other researchers.

Featured DH’er

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Each month the Digital Scholarship Lab highlights a campus colleague who is working on a digital humanities project. 
Hi Paul, Thanks for being our first feature interview! What degree are you pursuing and what are your research interests? 

I’m currently a Master’s student in the Department of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. My thesis work investigates the effects of Green Revolution agricultural technologies and policies on indigenous and campesino/a Mexican farmers and seeks to understand the relationship between development/aid programs devised and executed by Euroamerican institutions and neocolonialism, and considers technoscientific development initiatives as epistemic colonialism. My general research interests include alternatives in sustainable agriculture, their methodologies, and their pre-industrial or indigenous origins; digital humanities and data visualization; and the democratization of information production and consumption.

What is your position at OU Libraries? Give us a glimpse of what you do.  

I’m currently the graduate research assistant  in the Digital Scholarship Lab. I’m an incorrigible dabbler. I’ve given/continue to give workshops and consultations, both with classes and individuals, on introductory data management and visualization with Tableau, geospatial storytelling with ArcGIS Story Maps, network analytics with NodeXL and Gephi, web presence with WordPress, content management with Omeka, and data visualization with D3js. So a lot of the fluffy, (hopefully) pretty stuff.

My current project in the DSL is to build a socio-spatial map of the digital scholarship network at OU using the D3 javascript library. This project combines email metadata analysis, matrix algebra, html5/svg graphing packages, and D3js. I hope (re)model the university research library as a decentralized aggregation of knowledge producers/consumers/translators, rather than as a building with rooms with books.

What have you learned about digital scholarship through your studies and GA-ship? 

Ohmygodlots: All of the things listed above, I couldn’t do before Sarah Clayton and Tara Carlisle taught them to me/encouraged me to learn them/teach them. I’ve also been a student in Digital Humanities classes at OU for several years now. A common overly-intellectualized talking-point-quagmire for people doing/studying digital humanities/scholarship is “what is digital humanities/scholarship?” — yes we’re still at that point — I have learned that we don’t know, or we enjoy discussing it too much to attempt resolution. I have learned, like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart of what constitutes lewd imagery, that I know digital scholarship when I see it; and now, thanks to Tara and Sarah, I know it when I do it and help others do it too.

On Collaboration: John Steinbeck’s America

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On Collaboration: John Steinbeck’s America

Laurie Scrivener, Associate Professor and History and Area Studies Librarian
Liorah Golomb, Associate Professor and Humanities Librarian

Collaboration is the first of OU Libraries’ stated values: “We promote collaboration through teamwork and cooperation to pursue common goals.”1 As library faculty and members of the university community, we wholeheartedly agree. And, we have observed, collaboration is most effective when teams form organically to address a need or objective. A recent effort involving the Humanities librarian and the History and Area Studies librarian is a good example of a collaboration that produced a useful resource.

The project was initiated by Dr. David Wrobel of the History Department. He was preparing a Spring semester course exploring how John Steinbeck and his work were intertwined with American and global events. In the fall of 2016 Dr. Wrobel invited us and Sarah Clayton from OU Library’s Digital Scholarship Lab to lunch to tell us about the course and to brainstorm ways that the library might help. Sarah’s role was to help the class learn and use Hypothesis to annotate their reading, and ours was to help realize Dr. Wrobel’s vision to create a place on the internet that would be a resource not only to students of his class but to the larger community of Steinbeck scholars. This led to us creating a LibGuide, John Steinbeck’s America. Dr. Wrobel provided much of the content for the guide, including a comprehensive list of Steinbeck’s work and biographies and criticism that he wanted his students to know of. We decided how best to organize the information provided to us and added some of our own. The guide isn’t perfect; for example the table showing Steinbeck’s works by year and category isn’t fancy, but it is, we hope, clear and informative. We created visual interest with a gallery of first edition book jacket images.

Dr. Wrobel approved (and praised!) the guide and linked it to the course’s Canvas site. He also included us as instructors for the course, so we were able to follow discussions and be readily available to students. We gave a quick orientation for the class on the contents of the guide and reminded the students that we were available to help them.

This sort of collaboration, arising out of a faculty member’s specific need, reinforces the library’s role as education partner and makes use of the special skills of subject liaison librarians.


Shelf Web Content Capture System: A Proposal for a Digital Scholarship Collaborative Clearinghouse at the University of Oklahoma

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Shelf, a browser extension/add-on for Chrome and Firefox, describes itself as a “web clipper.” Think of it more like a team-based bookmark manager on crack — like Mario Party or Habitat for Humanity but as scrapbooking activities.

Shelf not only allows you to pocket and organize links to web pages like traditional bookmark managers, but allows you to scrape pages for individual content types: articles, images, videos, people, organizations, clippings (click-and-drag excerpts of any portion of a page), and highlighted text selections. They become your web “gems.” You can also annotate pages à la Hypothesis.

How about this example for images using this post as an example?


Any content captured can be described, commented, tagged, and awarded badges by team members for representing a best practice, innovation, key decision, trend, idea, or opportunity.

This couple-click content capture and curation takes place in a collaborative environment. What gems of the internet you hoard away can be yours alone, as with any bookmark manager, but you can also capture, annotate, tag, and comment as a member of overlapping and intersecting teams and organizations — something like an amorphous cross between a Russian nesting doll and a Venn Diagram. Making sense of the web becomes the light work of many hands.

A bunch of people picking and piling scraps and shreds of the web could quickly resemble a post-earthquake Dunder Mifflin paper products warehouse. In Shelf your captures are searchable or siftable through a series of filters by content type, source, date, tag, badge, or the user responsible.

Shelf is cloud connectable and fully sync-able with Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft One Drive, and any previous bookmarks (and their folder system you’ve agonized over meticulously for years) from any bookmark manager can be imported to Shelf.

And it’s free and so is 5GB of storage (mind you, links to external content get very cozy in a server — my library has 340 objects accounting for . . . 22.6KB . . . so my free storage is 0.000452% full — I would have to capture over 75 million pages/articles/images/videos/snips to exhaust the free storage).


W H I C H   B R I N G S   M E   T O   T H E   P O I N T   . . .   J E E Z ,   S O R R Y 

All of this makes possible something I would love to see for the digital scholarship network of librarians, professors, and students at the University of Oklahoma: a crowd-sourced clearinghouse of digital scholarship tools, tutorials, methods, projects, conferences, calls for papers, institutions, and people assembled by all of us, any of us, with a couple clicks in the course of the web trawling we do every day anyway — transfiguring the web from a “Big Bob’s Self-Storage” facility into, well, a library.

[for goodness’ sake they have a knowledge management manifesto on their site]

ArcGIS Story Maps and Map-lesses

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The ArcGIS Story Maps apps (from ESRI) offer a dynamic set of mixed-media presentation forms that represent the best in intuitive usability and serve as an antidote for cartophilic creators previously deflated by the labyrinthine complexity of professional-grade GIS software.

(like this … phew!)

complicated GIS interfact

Just consider July 2017’s Story Map of the Month: Washington’s Ice Age Floods.

It’s about as geo-mathematical as a National Geographic centerfold.

Which may make it an ideal candidate for that ever-elusive, so seemingly simple, and yet so oft-unreachable, answer to two decades of prayers:

. . . a substitute for Microsoft Powerpoint.

Remember how excited you were to discover Prezi and then what you thought would be a laminar waltz of image, symbol, and sound was just an incoherent lurching and jerking that would have you — and your audience — retching? (What has come to be called, even on and by a prezi expert at Preziday as “prezilepsy” and “death by prezi” (they used prezis to grapple with this problem).)

Here’s where Story Maps sans maps comes in (or leave the maps in there, up to you, the point is that it’s optional).

There are 11 Story Maps apps to choose from, but I’d like to draw your attention to Story Map Cascade, a down-flowing parallax bonanza, and Story Map Journal and Story Map Series. The interfaces for these apps, rather than being iterations of different embellishments to basemaps exclusively, instead provide a “Main Stage” which can contain maps, but could also be an image, video, or web site, which can then be annotated and embellished. These Story “Maps” apps transform (in the Shia Lebeouf/Steven Spielberg kind of way) ArcGIS from a purely cartographic tool into a raconteur’s swiss-army-knife.

They offer a guide to creating Story Maps, tips for effective storytelling, and a community forum.