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Does MapStory cost money to use?

MapStory is free for individual use. We charge organizations an annual subscription fee for the service of setting up an Organization Page at a custom URL. If you’re an Organization that is interested in a custom page, email info@mapstory.org

How do I sign up?

Go to mapstory.org homepage and click the “Sign Up Now” link.

How do I recover a lost password?

On the Login page, click the “Forgot password?” link.

Is there a minimum age for use of MapStory?

All registered MapStory.org users should be at least 13 years of age. For more detail, review our Terms of Service

Why do you want my real name?

We think of MapStory as an academic resource. So, just as you would expect an academic journal article or book to have an author’s name associated with it, we expect StoryLayers and MapStories to be tied to people. This helps viewers of the content make judgements about the validity of the content they come across.

How can I get help or learn more about how to use MapStory.

Besides this FAQ, MapStory.org provides a variety of ways to learn more about how to use the platform, and how to ask for help. To learn more, you should Beginner's Guide and Get Started Guides. You can also see what other storytellers are sharing about their projects and activities by reading latest Journal entries or by browsing this wiki. Finally, to report problems or share your ideas for technical enhancements you can either submit a “Feedback” ticket by clicking the Feedback button on the lower right part of your screen, or by adding a ticket directly to our public Github page.


Can I explore MapStory.org in a language other than English

Not yet. We are using the Transifex tool to generate translations of the site. To help, check out the Translate MapStory page.

Why do you use the eight categories that you do?

The eight categories were developed by the MapStory editorial team as a way to group StoryLayers and MapStories. The categories are not tied to any standard archival system or academic subjects list. We find these eight basic categories to be helpful and in the vast majority of cases, comprehensive. If you would like to suggest a new category, or an edit to an existing category, submit a feedback ticket.

How far back in time can your search go?

Currently you can search back to 290 million BCE. Soon we plan to exend search back to 4.5 billion years, allowing exploration of the full geological lifespan of Earth.


Why would I want to upload data into MapStory.org?

People contribute their spatio-temporal datasets into MapStory.org for a variety of reasons. Some see it as an alternative hosting solution. Rather than sustain a server themselves, they can upload datasets to MapStory.org and know that they will be accessible and downloadable at any time. Others see it as a way to support citizen science by crowdsourcing improvements to their data with the help of the global user community.

Can I upload a StoryLayer that focuses on mapping aspects of a living individual’s life?

No. Individual lives can only be focused on if the individual is deceased or considered to be a public figure in the public domain (i.e. Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton).

What types of data does MapStory allow for upload?

Currently MapStory supports data uploads in a .csv, .shp or .geojson format. Separately, you can upload icons in an .svg format. See the Get Started Guides for more information.

Why do I get errors when I try to upload data?

Data uploads can fail for a number of reasons. The most common 4 we’ve seen are:

  • Data is in the wrong format. MapStory.org only accepts .csv, .sp or .geojson formats currently.
  • Data tables have empty fields. All fields must have entries.
  • Time information is in different formats for different features. For example, you might have a YEAR as a START DATE for some of your features and DAY/MONTH/YEAR for others.
  • Column Headers have spaces.

Check out the Get Started Guides for more help. If you are still experiencing issues after addressing each of these issues, submit a feedback ticket.

What time formats does the MapStory uploader support?


How does MapStory license data that is uploaded

MapStory.org is a open data. We utilize the CC-By 4.0 Creative Commons license. For StoryLayers, the attribution should be to "contributors of MapStory". For MapStories, the attribution should be to the individual user that composed the MapStory.

Can I download data on MapStory?

Yes. Any registered user can download StoryLayers in a variety of formats.

What is the furthest back in time that data can be in order to be uploaded?

Currently MapStory uploader supports features that represent 290 million years BCE.

What is the largest number of features I can have in an upload?

We're not sure yet. Try a really big one and let us know how it went!

What is the largest file size that the MapStory uploader supports?

We're not sure yet. Try a really big one and let us know how it went!

What if I want to have a version of my StoryLayer that is not “editable” by others, and one that is? Can I upload two versions?

Yes. You can upload a dataset and make it uneditable and upload another version that is editable.

What if two or more more users upload the same or very similar datasets?

While we hope that, over time, the community comes to consensus on a single StoryLayer for a topic, we don’t prevent users from uploading similar datasets about the same topic. If more than one user uploads the exact same dataset, editors should investigate the sourcing to ensure one of the versions is not copied or plagiarized improperly. If all versions are acceptable, they will be allowed to remain.


What can be “edited” in MapStory?

In MapStory, editing refers to the act of adding, deleting, or modifying features in a StoryLayer. Once data is uploaded into MapStory, it becomes referred to as a StoryLayer. StoryLayers can be continuously edited to make them more complete and accurate. All edits are tracked by user accounts, similar to the way a wiki page is edited. For more information, check out the Get Started Guides on editing.

Do I have to make my data editable by other users?

No. You have the choice to make any data you upload as a StoryLayer non-editable, although we strongly prefer editable StoryLayers. Once a StoryLayer is opened for community editing only an administrator can turn editing powers off.

Where do I get to the editing tools for a StoryLayer?

You can begin editing a StoryLayer by searching for the StoryLayer, clicking on it, and then clicking the Edit StoryLayer button. Check out the Get Started Guides for Editing StoryLayers for more details.

What happens to my MapStory if a StoryLayer I used is edited?

When you publish your MapStory, you are using the version of the StoryLayer that exists at the moment in time that you publish. Therefore, your MapStory won’t change when new edits are made to StoryLayers, even if they are used in your MapStory. If you notice that one of the StoryLayers you use in a MapStory is significantly edited, you may want to consider re-opening your MapStory and re-adding the updated version of the StoryLayer so that your MapStory is as current and accurate as possible.

What happens if more than one person is editing the same StoryLayer at the same time?

Nothing should prevent multiple editors from editing a StoryLayer at the same time.

How does the MapStory editorial review process work?

The MapStory Foundation provides a three-tiered editorial review process. At the first tier, all registered users serve as basic Editors with responsibility to make StoryLayer data as complete and accurate as possible. At the second tier, a defined set of registered users are given Administrator status. This means they monitor flagged content and can freeze a user account, unpublish StoryLayers or MapStories, and resolve edit disputes. Finally, MapStory has three Editors-In-Chief who act as a final authority for edit disputes and issues with users. For more information, read the Get Started Guides for editing.

What happens if someone makes a change to an edit I made, and I think they are wrong?

If another user deletes a feature you added, or modifies one you added, and you think it is an incorrect change, you can take the editing action you think you need to to remedy the edit. If multiple users continue to disagree, launching a sort of “edit war”, a MapStory Administrator will step in to make an “adjudication edit” to resolve the dispute. The StoryLayer will be locked down from reverting back to a previous state prior to the adjudication edit. If users involved in the edit war strongly disagree with the Administrator's adjudication edit, a complaint can be lodged by submitting a Feedback ticket. In this case an Editor-In-Chief will review the edit and make a final determination.

Why can’t I edit the attributes associated with features in a StoryLayer?

Once a new StoryLayer is created, unfortunately the attributes about features in the StoryLayer cannot be changed.

Can I be notified whenever a StoryLayer that I’ve edited or am interested in is changed?

Yes. On your Profile go to the Notification Settings tab and check the box to be notified when one of your StoryLayers is edited.


Can I compose a MapStory that focuses on a specific, living person?

No. MapStories can only specifically target individuals who are either deceased or who are considered public figures in the public domain (i.e. Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump).

Can I return to a draft MapStory at a later time?

Yes. Your saved drafts appear on your Profile and you can resume them at any time.

If I make my MapStory public, does that mean anyone can see it and use it?

Yes. A MapStory that is made public can be found by anyone in the search. Anyone can then share it on social media or embed it on a different website using the Iframe embed link.

Will I be attributed if someone shared my MapStory?

Yes. The MapStory shows the storyteller who created it. This will appear even if the MapStory is embedded on a different site.

How is a MapStory different than ESRI StoryMaps?

Unlike ESRI StoryMaps, MapStory.org is specifically focused on mapping change over time. All StoryLayers in MapStory have some kind of time information. In ESRI StoryMaps there are templates for making tours and slideshows and different types of storymaps that don’t require indicating the temporal dimension of the geographic information shown on the map. Secondly, MapStory.org enables versioned editing of data that powers the MapStory. Third, all data and software that make up MapStory.org are openly licensed.

How is MapStory different than Storymap.js?

Storymap.js is a simple map authoring tool mainly designed for journalists. Unlike MapStory, it does not allow for the upload of polygonal or polyline data.


What is a MapStory?

A MapStory is our word for a visualization that uses geographic and time-base data together to explain a change or phenomenon that occurs in places and over time in the world. Check out the Get Started Guides for Composing MapStories to learn more.

What is a StoryLayer?

A StoryLayer is our word for a dataset that has geographic coordinates and time information as part of its attributes. StoryLayers are also often open for version editing by a global user community.

What is a StoryTeller?

A Storyteller is any registered user of MapStory.org

What is a StoryPin?

A StoryPin is a map feature that you add to your MapStory that is separate from the map features that are part of the StoryLayers you use for your MapStory. StoryPins can also have embedded media -like photos, videos, or audio files - to help you further explain the phenomena your MapStory is trying to explain. Check out the Get Started Guides for Composing MapStories to learn more.

What is a StoryBox?

A StoryBox is a setting for the map zoom level that appears on your MapStory during a defined range of time. For example, from 1900-1999 you may want your MapStory to be zoomed in very closely over the U.S. state of Illinois. Creating a StoryBox allows you to achieve this desire. Check out the Get Started Guides for Composing MapStories to learn more.

What is a “chapter”?

MapStories can be divided into chapters. For us, a chapter provides the storyteller a new timeline and map interface that can be filled up with a new set of StoryLayers, StoryBoxes and StoryPins.


What map projections does MapStory use?

The most common projections are 4326, 3857, or 900913. Technically, however, our importer should be able to handle any projection. If you have data in a projection that isn't working for MapStory, please submit a Feedback ticket.

How do I suggest a new feature to be added to MapStory?

The best way to make a suggestion is to submit a Feedback ticket. Secondly, you can create a ticket directly in our public Github page if you feel comfortable doing so.

Is MapStory code open source?

Yes. MapStory is built entirely on open source code.

What software is used to run MapStory?

MapStory.org is an implementation of the spatial data infrastructure GeoNode (geonode.org). Our development team has extended the GeoNode’s basic capabilities to integrate versioned editing capabilities utilizing MapLoom/Geogig and to enable storytelling using a Composer that we built ourselves.The database is hosted on an Amazon RDS environment. All the details are on Github.


What is the goal of the MapStory.org site?

MapStory was created to provide an open, nonprofit-seeking and universally accessible platform for accessing and improving spatial history information. We see MapStory as a companion to other knowledge platforms like Wikipedia or OpenStreetMap. In our case, we are focused on providing the world with a constantly improving, community driven historical atlas.

How is MapStory.org funded?

MapStory is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in the United States of America. It is funded through a mix of individual donations, foundation and government grants, and revenue-generating partnerships. For more details, visit The MapStory Foundation page.

How is MapStory governed?

MapStory.org is managed by the 501(c)3 nonprofit MapStory Foundation, as well as members of its global user community. A staff runs the daily operations required to keep the website up and running.. A Board of Trustees oversees legal and fiduciary responsibilities. For a full list of staff, Trustees and other key stakeholders, check out The MapStory Foundation page.


How is data licensed once it is uploaded into MapStory?

MapStory.org is a open data. We utilize the CC-By 4.0 Creative Commons license. For StoryLayers, the attribution should be to "contributors of MapStory". For MapStories, the attribution should be to the individual user that composed the MapStory.

How do I cite sources that I use to gather my data for a StoryLayer?

Every source that you consult as part of any research should be referenced in the “Data Sources” field of a StoryLayer’s metadata. Failure to site sources could result in a StoryLayer being removed from the public mapstory.org site.

Can I trace a map, generate my own data file, and upload it to MapStory as a StoryLayer?

We're currently investigating the rules around tracing ourselves. If you have expertise on this subject, please reach out at info@mapstory.org!


What risks do I expose my students to by allowing them to use MapStory?

Like other internet platforms, MapStory.org presents various participation risks. Our real names policy means that students will present themselves as their real selves. Comment feeds and private messaging enable users to directly communicate with one another. If cyberbullying occurs, any user should immediately email info@mapstory.org with details and an Administrator will investigate immediately and delete public content if need be, and deactivate a user account if deemed necessary. The other privacy risk stems from the content - StoryLayers and MapStories - that is generated on MapStory.org itself.

How should my students cite something in MapStory that they use in class?

A student using a MapStory should provide a hyperlink and make reference to ©MapStory contributors, CC BY-SA 4.0. If a student is using a StoryLayer, he or she should provide the hyperlink to the StoryLayer and make reference to “Data © MapStory contributors, CC-By 4.0”.

Should I trust MapStory as an educator?

MapStory is an open knowledge platform, like Wikipedia or OpenStreetMap, and should be understood to be a constant work in progress. Before drawing conclusions from a StoryLayer or MapStory, students should consider the storytellers that have been involved with the work, the number of views, any comments that help clarify issues, etc. Additionally, for StoryLayers particularly, if students see errors or omitions, they should consider making an edit to improve the StoryLayer. As an educational tool to help students think critically and even contribute new knowledge, it is a wonderful resource (we hope!). But, it should be placed into the proper context.

Where can I share my ideas or experiences for other educators to see?

Educators with ideas should share them on the Teaching & Event Guides page of this wiki. Additionally, you can write a Journal entry about your work, or paste your idea on a different website altogether and reference it on the MapStory twitter account (@mapstory).

Where can I find training materials and curricular supports to help me use MapStory in the classroom?

The Teaching & Event Guides are designed to support teachers with training and curricular supports.

Where can I get MapStory merchandise for my students?

MapStory Foundation staff are happy to mail you a box of t-shirts and other swag if you send a request to info@mapstory.org. Additionally, you can make your own order by using our Shopify Shop or our CafePress


I want to participate in MapStory as an Organization, not as an Individual. Is this possible?

Yes. To do this, you will need to create an Organization Page for your Organization. An Organization Page is a distinct type of profile that enables your organization to represent all the people (storytellers), StoryLayers and MapStories that are developed as part of your organization. MapStory charge’ an annual subscription for Organization Pages, which helps us sustain the website for the rest of the user community. To launch an Organization Page, email info@mapstory.org.

What if someone else launches an Organization Page with my same name?

MapStory Foundation staff curate Organization Pages with the goal of ensuring that only organizations actively operating under a name are able to secure the Organization Page for that name. For example, only representatives of the Ikea Corporation would be able to secure the Organization Page, www.mapstory.org/organization/Ikea. That said, if two organizations have the same name, the Organization Page will likely go to the Organization that purchases the page first, requiring the second organization to pick something similar but distinct as their URL.

Why are there different prices for different Organization types?

MapStory.org seeks to maximize participation by organizations, especially nonprofits and smaller academic entities, by offering a series of prices based on an organization’s ability to pay. We also calibrate our prices to only cover expenses of our core goals - server costs, staff and operating costs, and software enhancements based on user feedback.

I thought MapStory was a non-profit. Why are they charging for Organization Pages?

Yes, we are a nonprofit that survives on individual donations and federal and foundation grants. Subscription fees from Organization Pages provides a third source of revenue. We think of these fees as similar to the subscription fees many nonprofit magazines charge. All of these revenue sources help us to achieve our goals of keep MapStory.org ad free and to keep the site free for individuals, forever.