MapStory Local

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See previous archived page.

See MapStory Local:

Goal: The goal of the MapStory Local initiative is to provide a single mapstory on where people will be able to explore the world as one would in Google Maps or Openstreetmap, over time. A user will be able to, for example, zoom in on a place, like Amsterdam, and see what it looked like in the year 1800.

How: Storytellers will ultimately be able to upload data and edit it directly, and create historic narratives and communities. Like in Google Maps, when one clicks on or enters a place, an infowindow will pop up with options to view and download data in different formats and programs (such as a Shapefile or Google Earth file), as well as links to a related Wikipedia articles and community discussions.

Initiatives: MapStory Local is one of several initiatives that can be explored in one platform, where people can move from one initiative to another, with the option to stay fixed on the same place. For example, if a user were to zoom in on Iowa, they would be able to switch over to the MapStory Life initiative, and see what the land cover was like at different times (eg. agriculture, urban, forests, grasslands, etc).


Current versions are meant to be a demonstration with a few places. Currently there is no specific timeline, but it is possible that in a relatively short amount of time, the first usable MapStory Local application can be built, a single global historic mapstory.

The current version or later version(s) will be available at central site, such as:

  • Version 1.1 (Previous Version): A global index of MapStory Local data.
  • Version 1.2 (Current Version): A global mapstory of human settlement.

Current version[edit]

MapStory Local 1.2:

Developed by Bates Rambow of Cartolab:

Currently has a few layers:

(1) United States

As you can see, it's set to the lower 48. Move the cursor, the boundaries change (counties, states, etc., with labels)

(2) Global Boundaries (a couple)

Added Indian Subcontinent dataset, and you can zoom out and see both globally:

(3) Global settlements (points)

As you can also see, included a layer of global settlements, with the circle radius increasing with population.

(4) Ames

Zoom in, drag the slider - and for this, click on each building, you'll get some info on it.

Direct link:

(5) Netherlands, all buildings

For some reason, you have to go to zoom level 13 or higher to see buildings, will be fixed.

Here is Amsterdam:

Previous version(s)[edit]

MapStory Local 1.1: Here are two separate maps - one for points (settlements) and one for boundaries. Ultimately there will be one map of both, for now they are separate. Think of this as a geographic index of data. Ultimately, the data will be in on seamless mapstory.

In the following maps, click on a feature, and you'll have options to see a Youtube video, a MapStory embed, download for Google Earth, a Shapefile and a Wikipedia article. The options of Cesium and MapD will also be added.

Next Features, in Rough Order[edit]

All of the following should work both on a traditional computer monitor and a phone.

Current Top Priority:

  • Legend, with layers - drop down in hierarchies, can be clicked on and off, changes as zoom in and out, and in different geographies
  • Enable going date by date and change by change

Second priority:

  • Be able to switch basemaps, starting with: Natural Earth, Openstreetmap, and satellite.


  • If no end date, goes to present (or perhaps "no end date" specified in some way)
  • Click on feature, have sidebar come up with: Short wikipedia article, Basic feature info, Some higher and lower features (cities, counties/districts, states/provinces, country, whatever in between)
  • Change timeline to be on bottom and expandable across full range, with reset and back buttons to original and previous extents; perhaps also set start and end.


  • Allow multiple data sliders, with corresponding legend, clickable layers, allowing selected layer to show corresponding slider.
  • Be able to focus data on range, and to be able to drag that range
  • Have visual slider that allows comparing viewing, perhaps also opacity.
  • Selecting mapstories to superimpose over initiative.
  • Mouse over things on map and highlight (and maybe be able to unclick for highlighting)
  • Zoom to different levels automatically if feature is clicked on, and be able to go back to previous extent
  • Be able to download data easily, and perhaps also see data in other environments - perhaps by clicking on tree heirarchy

Building Local[edit]

There are three steps to starting a basic MapStory Local platform:

Step 1: Build an acceptable Local platform (Version 1.2 or 1.3)

Step 2: Pour in data.

Step 3: Actively widen the community.

Step 1[edit]

Build an acceptable Local platform: Mostly Complete (Version 1.2). Read above, under Versions.

Step 2[edit]

Pour in data: Enough data must be added to make Local useful. Like with Wikipedia, where the initial users built a basic platform, and went through other encyclopedias and put articles into their own words, the MapStory Local community should pour in data that will make it a generally useful place to go to see how the world changed over time. And like wikipedia or any information and social platform, it should have enough data to develop a network effect for it to be a go-to place for viewing and collaborating on historic data. Data will be added strategically, in two directions, one of breadth and one of depth (see “Systematic Mapping” below).


  • Ames, Iowa, USA - as of now, the only in-depth project. Covering pre-colonized American Indian history (settlements, sites), surveying (PLSS), land ownership (transfer records), buildings, people, businesses, georeferenced images, and so on.


  • Netherlands
  • Florida, Montana and New Jersey
  • Public Land Survey System (PLSS)
  • Newberry Library
  • Places on hand (data on storytellers hard drives)
  • Rough large-scale borders, covering all major regions, across continents
  • Places (points, with dates and populations)

Step 3[edit]

Expand community: Though it is open to collaboration from the beginning, this can be thought of as where MapStory Local is “released”.

  • Documentation:

Thoroughly document the process of adding data, with complementary written, graphic and video explanations.

  • Collaboration platforms:

Build discussion forums, communities that people can join.

Principles & Process[edit]

Proposed are some basic principles that will guide Local and other Initiatives:

  • Do what current users need now: Features and improvements are needed by current users at the moment that are different from a current direction, which should be readily shifted and current needs readily implemented.
  • Get something working first: Even if it's a total hack and not fully open source, what matters is that people can use the site, and goals are met in the long run.
  • Don’t reinvent: For what is needed, first use what already exists, that someone has already done. If something needs to be done that has not been created, develop it.
  • Incremental development: Do each change or improvement one by one, roughly in order of priority, with each increment being useful in itself.
  • Systematic mapping: For the data in initiatives, there will be two directions, one of breadth and one of depth. A breadth of data will be added en masse from across the world, while one or a few places will be focused on in depth. Ultimately, the breadth of all data will be added and developed in depth. See “Building Local Data” below.

Making Changes to the Map[edit]

Anyone is invited to make changes to the map here: