Sunlight Foundation sponsors MapStory 'Open Boundaries' initiative with OpenGov Grant

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June 10, 2014

WASHINGTON – This week, the Sunlight Foundation announced the MapStory Foundation as one of three winners in its OpenGovGrants program. The grant will enable the launch of the “Open Boundaries” Community Initiative, which will collect and map archival data on municipal-level boundary changes throughout U.S. history. The Initiative will begin with two states – California and New York – and scale nationally thereafter.

“We built MapStory to serve the open government and open data movements, making it easier for scholars, students and citizens to organize open data and construct visual arguments about how they see the world changing over time and space,” MapStory creator Dr. Christopher Tucker said.

“Local boundaries are a key building block of every community, and mapping out their historical evolution will make a great contribution to our collective understanding of the past.” The Initiative will be led by Karl Phillips, a historical geographer and CEO of Dynamic Geographics LLC (, a cartographic firm based in Leesburg, Virginia.

“This is a project I’ve dreamed of completing for many years,” Phillips said.

“As a professional geographer and genealogy enthusiast, I’ve observed how a seemingly inconsequential topic – local boundary changes – can have profound implications for interpreting family tree records, evaluating the impact of government policy and more generally reflecting on how our nation developed over time. I'm grateful to the MapStory Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation for giving me this opportunity.”

As data is collected by Phillips and volunteers, it will be inputted as ‘StoryLayers’ into, a global data commons and storytelling application developed and sustained by the U.S. based nonprofit MapStory Foundation. Once loaded, these data will be freely available to the general public for editing, and for use by others in original MapStories composed at local, regional or national scales.

Most of the source information on municipal boundaries is derived from local governments. Therefore the project will also help illuminate the degree of availability of public information on the subject in local governments.

“As more localities learn about the project, we hope they will start to contribute themselves to the ever growing database. Such information will be useful for urban planners, historians, demographers, conservationists, genealogists, educators and students,” said Phillips.

For more information on MapStory and to create your own account, or to contribute geographic data, go to:

The MapStory Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustaining as a public utility, and to empowering a global community to collaborate on projects that dramatically improve our collective understanding of the rich past, complex present and uncertain future we share as living beings on planet Earth.