Skip to Main Content
University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Visualizing Time and Space: An Introduction to Story Mapping for Social Studies

Sat, February 17, 2018 | PCL Learning Commons, Learning Lab 3 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM Join Hemispheres for "Visualizing Time and Space: An Introduction to Story Mapping for Social Studies," a workshop for K-16 educators in social studies. Hosted in conjunc

Getting Started with Story Maps

Story Maps Basics

First things first, make a Story Maps account with ArcGIS.

Next, check out this summary and list of examples of what Story Maps can do for your classroom. You might want to peruse this list of resources, and the quick-start guide for Story Maps. Then, you can follow along with these tutorials on the wide range of features of Story Maps.

Lastly, consult this Frequently Asked Questions page for any issues that may arise.

Below you will find the quick start guide created for this workshop.

Workshop Quick Guide

Before You Begin:

- Plan and outline your story: think about what parts are “mappable” and how/where you will incorporate images.

- Browse the Story Maps ‘Apps’ gallery to determine which template will best suit the needs and goals of your story. Adapt your outline to best fit the affordances of your chosen template.

- Gather images: with a free ArcGIS account, making albums on Flickr is the easiest way to incorporate images into your map. Linking from image URLs also works, but you will run the risk of those links breaking or changing during the life of your map. Make sure to gather images open for use under Creative Commons or images in the public domain.

- Remember that everything you share will be public, so citation is key. Also consider choosing a Creative Commons license for your map:


Getting Started with Common Tools and Features:

(These features are based on the Story Map JournalSM app. Many features will be common across apps, but please defer to tutorials and FAQs for the specific app you have chosen.)


Creating a Map with a Basic ‘Map Notes’ Layer:

If you are creating a map from the Story Map interface, select ‘Map’ from the CONTENT options, then select ‘Create a map’ from the dropdown menu. Name your map.



ArcGIS will open in a small window with your newly created map. To start adding points to your map, click ‘Add’ and select ‘Add Map Notes’ from the drop down.

Give your Map Notes layer a meaningful name, especially if you intend to use multiple layers throughout your story. Making multiple layers is useful if you might want to make certain points on your map visible or invisible throughout your story.

When you hit create, you will be given the option to ‘Add Features’ on the left. Choose the feature you wish to add, then click on the location you wish to drop the feature. A box will pop up allowing you to enter your data for that point. When you are finished populating the point, hit ‘Close’. When you finish adding points to your map, click ‘Save’.

When you return to your story, you will see your newly created map selected in the drop down. You can return to editing it, or proceed with your story. The following three options will become familiar in the course of creating your Story Map. ‘Location’ allows you to set an area of the map for the story to snap to in order to direct the user’s focus. ‘Content’ allows you to determine which layers of your map you want visible at different points in the story. ‘Pop-up” allows you to set links to automatically open different pins on your map, again to direct user focus.

Note: Once you have created a map, there are two ways to access it again for editing. You will be given the option to edit within the Story Map pane whenever you are creating and editing sections of the story, shown below:

You will also be able to navigate to your map through ‘My Stories’ on the Story Maps homepage. Open the project you are working on and you will see a list of maps used in the project, with the option to ‘Edit Map’:

This will open directly into the ArcGIS interface, outside of your Story interface. It’s a little bit bigger and a little bit easier to see. Just don’t forget to save! (The save button is a little purple floppy on the toolbar):

If you edit your map separately from your story, you will need to refresh your story to see map changes.

Note: If you wish to add points to an existing map section/layer, use the edit button with the destination layer selected. If you wish to add a new layer with points that can be displayed independently of another set of points throughout your story, click ‘Add’ and select ‘Add Map Notes’.


Adding Images to Your Story:

Select ‘Image’ from the CONTENT options. Identify your source. ‘Upload’ is only available to those using paid ArcGIS subscriptions. ‘Link’ to image URLs is easy but risks dead links in the future. I will detail how to use Flickr.


At this point you will either have created your own Flickr album with images covered under fair use, public domain, etc., or will have identified such images in other Flickr accounts. When you choose Flickr, it will as for the user name of the source of your images. This can be found on anyone’s home page, underneath their official name. In this example, the user name is hemispheres@ut:
When you enter the user name of the desired source into box in your Story Map, you can load the albums from that user, and navigate to your desired image.

Linking Content to Maps and Images throughout Your Story:


While you are creating your story, you might want certain areas of text to link to changes in the main portion of the story - different maps, different highlighted points, different images, etc. In your editing and formatting box, highlight the text you wish to trigger the changes in your story:

With the text highlighted, navigate to the Story Actions box on your formatting toolbar, and click the icon with a map, camera, and video camera. This will produce a familiar screen. Choose a map you’ve already created, create a new map (not recommended for smaller projects), add images, add videos, or add a webpage.
If you are choosing to link to a map and you want a specific point to pop-up upon clicking specific areas of text throughout your story, choose ‘Custom Configuration’ from the ‘Pop-Up’ options. You will then be able to click the point you wish to highlight through the text:
Once you have designated what you want the text to link to, return to the text box and you will see that your text is now a link.
If you click ‘Add’ you will return to the interface of your story. When you click your now highlighted text, the changes to the main stage you just created should show up.



If you want to explore more advanced features in Story Maps, the documentation is clear and accessible on the main site. Remember that play is one of the most important components to engaging with digital projects.


Always remember to save!!!

Expert Support

Profile Photo
Dale J. Correa
Contact: Website

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.