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MapStory is an online social cartographic platform developed by the MapStory Foundation since April 2012. Its goal is to empower the community of experts to crowd-source and peer review data within a geospatial and temporal framework. The platform is built upon the OpenGeo software stack.



MapStory was launched in April 2012 by the MapStory Foundation, headed by Dr. Christopher Tucker. The MapStory Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2011 with the goal of sustaining the global MapStorytelling community. Initial start-up support for the software enabling the MapStory platform was provided by the United States Army Corps of Engineers Engineering Research and Development Center.

MapStory Platform

The MapStory platform is an online cartographic application developed using the GeoNode open-source platform. GeoNode is a spatial data infrastructure solution that extends the OpenGeo Architecture with several advanced features such as participatory or collaborative mapping, advanced customization, social network capabilities and metadata catalog solutions.

The Open Database License (ODbL) from Open Data Commons (ODC) is used for the underlying datasets committed to MapStory. Creative Commons licenses are then used for user representations of data (MapStories). This means that users are free to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the site's maps and data as long as appropriate citations are being observed.


MapStory serves as a data repository for thematic spatial-temporal visualizations uploaded by the website's registered users. These are called StoryLayers. StoryLayers serve as the building blocks of a MapStory. On the website, StoryLayers are organized based on theme, location, and region and time information. This categorization of StoryLayers facilitate easier access for users in creating a MapStory.

StoryLayer formats vary depending on the type of input file used to display the geospatial and temporal information for the MapStory.

  1. Comma separated value (CSVs) - a text-based dataset which contains columns and rows of information which are delimited by comma.
  2. Shapefiles - common geospatial dataset from GIS (geographic information system) software like ArcGIS and QGIS. Shapefiles are always in vector format, as compared to rasters. This type of dataset is usually a collection of files sharing the same filename but with different file extensions which include but not limited to: .shp, .dbf, .prj, .sbn, .sbx, .shx, .xml, etc.
  3. Rasters - another type of GIS dataset which is generally created by scanning maps, photography and the like. Unlike vector shapefiles, rasters are made up of square picture elements known as pixels.

StoryLayers are the primary elements in developing a spatial-temporal narrative or a MapStory. Creating a MapStory involves the use of two or more StoryLayers, with at least one StoryLayer containing time attributes, as well as annotations like audio, video, photos and text, that collectively make a point about some phenomena of global change. Hence, StoryLayers may or may not have time attributes. To enable MapStory's temporal animation functionality, time attributes should comply with certain technical specifications.

Privacy Policy

The MapStory Foundation is a nonprofit organization with an educational mission. Our goal is to run a reliable and sustainable service that enables you, the user, to share your knowledge with the world and to improve the knowledge shared by others.

We value your privacy. This Privacy Policy describes what information we collect from users of the MapStory Website (“Site” or “”), how we use that information, and how we disclose that information. By using the Site, you consent to the collection and use of personal information in accordance with this policy.


Personal Information

Personal Information We Collect From You

In general, the MapStory Foundation collects and retains the least amount of personally identifiable information needed to fulfill the Projects' operational needs. When you register for the Site, you will be asked for your full name, email address, and a password. Additionally, once you have registered, you may complete a user profile that can include employer and industry information, educational and biographic information, and geographic information. You may also upload a profile picture or avatar. We may also collect information about individual activity on the Site. Additionally, use of the StoryLayers, MapStories, and MapStorytelling features may require you to provide additional personal information and/or data that may contain personal information.

Passive Information We Collect About You

When you visit the Site, some information is automatically collected, such as your IP address, browser type, system type, the content and pages that you access on the Site, the “referring URL” (i.e., the page from which you navigated to, the pages you navigate to on the Site, and from which you leave the Site, as well as the time you spend on the Site. In addition to using Uniform Resource Locators (URL), we also use Cookies [JZ1] to gather information regarding the date and time of your visit and the information for which you searched and viewed. Session and persistent cookies may also be used to better understand how you interact with the Site and our service, to monitor aggregate usage by our users and web traffic routing on the Site, and to improve the Site and our services.

We may also collect information passively using technologies such as standard server logs, cookies, and clear GIFs (also known as “Web beacons”). We use passively-collected information to administer, operate, and improve the Site and our other services and systems, and to provide services and content that are tailored to you. We may aggregate information collected from our users to show statistical data to our potential donors. However, WE WILL NOT SHARE, SELL, RENT, SWAP OR OTHERWISE AUTHORIZE ANY THIRD PARTY TO ACCESS YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.

Also, please be aware that third parties may set cookies on your hard drive or use other means of collecting information about your use of their services or content. We do not have access to, or control over, these third-party means of passive data collection and do not assume responsibility for such third-party privacy practices.

How We Use Your Information

Personally Identifiable Information

We do not share personal information collected privately from you in a personally identifiable manner. We may aggregate the personal information collected from our users in a non-personally identifiable manner. Aggregate information is information that we collect about a group or category of products, services or customers that is not personally identifiable or from which individual identities are removed. WE MAY USE AND DISCLOSE AGGREGATE INFORMATION, AND OTHER NON-PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION, FOR VARIOUS PURPOSES. WE WILL NOT SHARE, SELL, RENT, SWAP OR OTHERWISE AUTHORIZE ANY THIRD PARTY TO ACCESS YOUR PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION.

Using Your Information to Aggregate Statistics

We may disclose aggregate statistics regarding user behavior as a measure of interest in, and use of, the Site and e-mails to third parties in the form of aggregate data, such as overall patterns or demographic reports that do not describe or identify any individual user. We may also use non-personally identifiable aggregate statistics of our users for internal purposes such as to administer, operate and improve the Site. We may provide your information to third-party services who work on behalf of or with us to provide some of the services and features of the Site or services and to help us communicate with you.[JZ2] Examples of such services may include, but are not limited to, sending emails, analyzing data, and providing marketing assistance. These third-parties are required not to disclose your personal information and not to use your personal information except based on our instructions and in accordance with this Privacy Policy. Any information we disclose or use will be in non-personally identifiable form.

Using Your Information to Improve MapStory

We may also use personal information to provide services and information that you request; to enhance, improve, operate, and maintain, our programs, services, website, and other systems; to prevent fraudulent use of the Site and services; to tailor your user experience; to maintain a record of our dealings with you, and for other administrative purposes.

Disclosing Your Information if Legally Required

We may also disclose personal information if we believe that doing so is legally required or is in our interest to protect our property or other legal rights (including, but not limited to, enforcement of our agreements), or the rights or property of others.


If you provide feedback to us, we may use and disclose such feedback for any purpose, provided we do not associate such feedback with your personal information. We will collect any information contained in such feedback and will treat the personal information in it in accordance with this Privacy Policy.

Third Party Sites and Affiliates

The Site may contain links to other websites. MapStory is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of these other websites. This Privacy Policy applies solely to information collected by us through the Site or services and does not apply to these third party websites. Users will need to check the privacy policies of these others websites to understand their policies. Users who access a linked site may be disclosing their personal information.

Opt Out

Users may e-mail the Site administrator at to remove user information from our database if they so desire.

Age Restrictions

The Site is not directed to children and children are not eligible to use our Site or services. We do not collect or maintain personal information from people we actually know are under 13 years old, and no part of the Site or services is designed to attract people under 13 years old. If we later obtain actual knowledge that a user is under 13 years old, we will take steps to remove that user's personal information from our databases. Our Site and services are intended for users and visitors over the age of 18. It is our policy that visitors and users of our Site who are between the ages of 13 and 18 do so only with consent of a parent or guardian.

If you are under the age of 18 and have already provided personal information through the site without consent from a parent or guardian, please have your parent or guardian contact us immediately, so that we can remove such information from our files. Your parent or guardian may contact us at

International Visitors

MapStory is hosted in the United States. It is intended to be made accessible by a global audience insofar as its use is permitted by the governing laws of a country. If you visit from the European Union or other regions with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law, please be aware that you are transferring personal information to the United States. The United States does not have the same data protection laws as the EU and some other regions. By providing personal information to us, you consent to the transfer of personal information to the United States and the use of personal information in accordance with this Privacy Policy.


We use reasonable security measures that are designed to protect personal information from loss, misuse, and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. Please note, however, that no data security measures can be guaranteed to be completely effective. Consequently, we cannot ensure or warrant the security of any personal information or other information. You transmit personal information to us at your own risk.

Policy Updates

We may occasionally update this Privacy Policy. When we do, we will also revise the “last updated” date at the top of the Privacy Policy. Your continued use of the Site after such changes will be subject to the then-current Privacy Policy. Notice of material changes will be posted on the Site's homepage and/or will be provided by e-mailing you or notifying you upon login about these changes; the form of such notice is up to our discretion. However, we encourage you to periodically review this Privacy Policy to stay informed about how we collect, use, and disclose personal information.

Terms of Service

Welcome to (“MapStory” or the “Site”), an online site that allows a global user community to organize its knowledge about the world spatially and temporally. MapStory is supported by the MapStory Foundation (the “Foundation”), a 501(c)3 educational non-profit organization based in Alexandria, VA, USA.

In order to use MapStory, you (the “User”) must read, accept and abide by the terms of this agreement (“Terms”) as well as the related Privacy Policy, License and Copyright, Trademark Terms of Use, and Community Ethics for MapStory.


These Terms of Use tell you about our public services at the MapStory Foundation. We at the Foundation are responsible for the care and feeding of, and related projects, but it is our volunteer user community that takes primary responsibility for upholding the quality and comprehensiveness of content found at, our primary project, and any others that might emerge. Generally we do not contribute, monitor, or delete content (with the rare exception of policies like these Terms of Use, our Privacy Policy or legal compliance for DMCA notices). This means that editorial control is in the hands of you and your fellow users who create and manage the content. We merely host this content.

Please be aware that you are legally responsible for all of your contributions, edits, and re-use of MapStory content under the laws of the United States of America and other applicable laws (which may include the laws where you live or where you view or edit content). This means it is important that you use caution when posting content. Please keep in mind that the content we host is for general informational purposes only, so if you need expert advice for a particular question (such as medical, legal, or financial issues), you should seek the help of a licensed or qualified professional. We also include other important notices and disclaimers, so please read these Terms of Use in their entirety.

For clarity, other organizations, such as local MapStory chapters and associations, that may share in the same mission are nevertheless legally independent and separate from the MapStory Foundation and have no responsibility for the operations of the website or its content.

Our mission is to empower a global community to show the world how it has changed over time and inspire MapStorytelling as as a means of communicating important issues to a global audience. Through the use of “StoryLayers” and “MapStories,” users of the Site may aid in accumulating and improving the global body of knowledge about global dynamics, worldwide, over the course of history (the “Services”).

Our Services

ACCESS TO THE SERVICES. Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, the Foundation provides the Services, as described more fully on the Site, and which are selected by you, solely for your own use, and not for the use or benefit of any third party. Services shall include, but not be limited to, any services the Foundation performs for you, as well as the hosting of web services that enable users to display information (including, but not limited to text, graphics, maps, photographs, images, illustrations, databases - collectively known as the "Content") on the Site.

The Site is a work in progress, constantly evolving and improving with new functionalities and features. The Foundation may change, suspend or discontinue the Services for any reason, at any time, including the availability of any feature or Content. The Foundation may also impose limits on certain features and Services or restrict your access to parts or all of the Services without notice or liability. The Foundation reserves the right, at its discretion, to modify this Agreement at any time by posting a notice on, the Site, or by sending you a notice via e-mail. You shall be responsible for reviewing and becoming familiar with any such modifications. Your use of the Services following such notification constitutes your acceptance of the terms and conditions of this Agreement as modified.


You certify to the Foundation that you are an individual (i.e., not a corporation, bot or machine) and that you are at least 13 years of age. You also certify that you are legally permitted to use the Services and access the Site, and take full responsibility for the selection and use of the Services and access of the Site. The Site and the Services are sustained and facilitated by the Foundation from its offices within the State of Virginia. The Foundation makes no representation that materials on the Site or through the Services are appropriate or available for use in other locations. Those who choose to access or use the Services from other locations, including from outside the United States of America, do so on their own initiative and are responsible for compliance with local laws, if and to the extent local laws are applicable. Access to the Services from jurisdictions where the contents or practices of the Services are illegal, unauthorized or penalized is strictly prohibited. This Agreement is void where prohibited by law, and the right to access the Site is revoked in such jurisdictions.


The Foundation will use reasonable efforts to ensure that the Site and Services are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. However, there will be occasions when the Site and/or Services will be interrupted for maintenance, upgrades and emergency repairs or due to failure of telecommunications links and equipment. Every reasonable step will be taken by the Foundation to minimize such disruption where it is within the Foundation’s reasonable control. YOU AGREE THAT NEITHER THE FOUNDATION NOR THE SITE WILL BE LIABLE IN ANY EVENT TO YOU OR ANY OTHER PARTY FOR ANY SUSPENSION, MODIFICATION, DISCONTINUANCE OR LACK OF AVAILABILITY OF THE SITE, THE SERVICES, YOUR ACCOUNT OR OTHER CONTENT.


Users may create two types of accounts on MapStory: (1) Individual Accounts and (2) Organization Accounts.

Individual Accounts must be maintained only by the Individual assigned to the Individual Account.

Organization Accounts must be created and moderated by at least one Individual Account holder. Unless otherwise specified in any customized Service Agreement, Organization Accounts are governed by the same Terms as Individual Accounts.

Violations of these Terms of Service can lead to your account being suspended or revoked.

Registration and Security

As a condition to using certain Services, you may be required to register with the Site and select a password and username. You shall provide the Site with accurate, complete, and updated registration information. Failure to do so shall constitute a breach of this Agreement, which may result in immediate termination of your account. You may not (i) select or use as your username the name of another person with the intent to impersonate that person; or (ii) use as your username a name subject to any rights of a person other than you without appropriate authorization. The Foundation reserves the right to refuse registration of, or cancel an account and any data connected to that account, in its discretion. You shall be responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your Site password.


You are responsible for all of your activity in connection with the Services and accessing the Site. You may not post or transmit, or cause to be posted or transmitted, any communication or solicitation designed or intended to obtain password, account or private information from any MapStory user. You shall not use any part of the Site or Services to violate the security of any computer network, crack passwords or security encryption codes, transfer or store material that is deemed threatening or obscene or engage in any kind of illegal activity.


The Foundation has no special relationship with or fiduciary duty to you. You acknowledge that the Foundation has no control over, and no duty to take any action regarding: which users gain access to the Site; what Content you access via the Site; what effects the Content may have on you; how you may interpret or use the Content; or what actions you may take as a result of having been exposed to the Content. You release the Foundation from all liability for your having acquired or not acquired Content through the Site. The Site may contain, or direct you to sites containing, information that some people may find offensive or inappropriate. The Foundation makes no representations concerning any Content contained in or accessed through the Site, and the Foundation will not be responsible or liable for the accuracy, copyright compliance, legality or decency of material contained in or accessed through the Site. THE SERVICES, CONTENT, SITE AND ANY SOFTWARE ARE PROVIDED ON AN "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR NON-INFRINGEMENT.



As a general principle, the access to, and retention of, personally identifiable data in all projects should be minimal and should be used only internally to serve the well-being of the projects. However, we do occasionally encounter situations in which we must share personally identifiable data to comply with the law or to protect the rights, property or safety of the MapStory Foundation, its users or the general public. Therefore, you hereby irrevocably authorize the Foundation to disclose your personally identifiable information at the request of any state or federal agency or in response to any judicial process (including, without limitation, a subpoena). Please review our Privacy Policy, which governs the use of personal information on the Site and to which you agree to be bound as a user of the Site.


You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, its parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, agents, employees, partners, licensors and content partners harmless from any dispute that may arise from a breach of terms of this Agreement. You agree to hold the Foundation harmless from any claims and expenses, including reasonable attorney's fees and court costs, related to your violation of this Agreement. 

You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, its parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, agents, employees, partners, licensors and content partners harmless from any claim or demand, including reasonable attorneys' fees, made by any third party due to or arising out of your use of, or submission to, the Site, breach of this Agreement or your violation of any law or the rights of a third party.


The failure of either party to exercise in any respect any right provided for herein shall not be deemed a waiver of any further rights hereunder. The Foundation shall not be liable for any failure to perform its obligations hereunder where such failure results from any cause beyond the Foundation’s reasonable control, including, without limitation, mechanical, electronic or communications failure or degradation. If any provision of this Agreement is found to be unenforceable or invalid, that provision shall be limited or eliminated to the minimum extent necessary so that this Agreement shall otherwise remain in full force and effect and enforceable.


MapStory is facilitated by the Foundation from its offices in Alexandria, Virginia. As the Site can be accessed from all fifty states and other countries around the world and each of these places has laws that may differ from those of Virginia, by accessing this website both you and the Foundation agree that the statutes and laws of the State of Virginia, without regard to the conflicts of laws principles thereof, will apply to all matters relating to use of this website. The Foundation makes no representation that materials on the Site are appropriate or available for use in other locations, and accessing them from territories where the contents are illegal is prohibited. Those who choose to access this site from other locations do so on their own initiative and are responsible for compliance with all applicable laws


The Terms of Service, including all documents referenced herein (including the Privacy Policy, License and Copyright,Trademark Terms of Use, and Community Ethics), represents the entire understanding between the User and the Foundation regarding the User's relationship with the Foundation and supersedes any prior statements or representations. "Including" means "including, without limitation." This Agreement is not assignable, transferable or sublicensable by you except with the Foundation’s prior written consent. The Foundation may transfer, assign or delegate this Agreement and its rights and obligations without consent. No agency, partnership, joint venture, or employment is created as a result of this Agreement and you do not have any authority of any kind to bind the Foundation in any respect whatsoever.

Any notice to the Site that is required or permitted by this Agreement shall be in writing and shall be deemed effective upon receipt, when sent by confirmed e-mail to [] or when delivered in person by nationally recognized overnight courier or mailed by first class, registered or certified mail, postage prepaid, to: PO Box.

License and Copyright

MapStory is open data. In committing your StoryLayers and MapStories to, you are assigning your data and graphical representations to the global data commons under two licenses, respectively. The Open Database License(ODbL) from Open Data Commons (ODC), is used for the underlying data sets committed to MapStory. The Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence (CC BY-SA) is used for graphical representations of this data. This can include out of copyright information, public domain or other licenses. All contributors must register with the project and agree to provide data and graphical representations on an Open Data License (ODbL) and a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license, respectively. Or, user must determine that the licensing of the source data is suitable; this may involve examining licenses for government data to establish whether they are compatible.

You are free to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt our maps and data, as long as you credit MapStory and its contributors. If you alter or build upon our maps or data, you may distribute the result only under the same license. The full Creative Commons legal code and Open Database License explains your rights and responsibilities.

How to credit MapStory

If you are using MapStory map images, we request that your credit reads “© MapStory contributors, CC BY-SA”. If you are using map data only, we request “Data © MapStory contributors, ODbL”.

Where possible, MapStories should be hyperlinked to and cite the CC BY-SA license. If you are using a medium where links are not possible (e.g. a printed work), we suggest you direct your readers to [], run by the 'The MapStory Foundation’, and cite the CC BY-SA license.

Our CC BY-SA license requires you to “give the Original Author credit reasonable to the medium or means you are utilizing”. Individual MapStory contributors do not request a credit over and above that to “MapStory contributors”, but as MapStory is a high-attribution environment, it may be reasonable to credit them by directly reproducing their credit or by linking to it on this page. We encourage you to also link to specific StoryLayer or MapStory pages, so that individual MapStorytellers get direct credit, rather than just being an nameless 'MapStory contributor'.

Inclusion of data in MapStory does not imply that the original data provider endorses MapStory, provides any warranty, or accepts any liability.

API Usage

Although MapStory is open data, we cannot provide unlimited free-of-charge map APIs for third-party developers. As the MapStory Foundation is a charitable organization supported by a global community, the resources available from this community will govern the volume of API calls that can be handled. As such, the use of any API published by MapStory will be subject filtering, particular for users posing disproportionate load on the servers. See our API Usage Policy - which is a work in progress.

DMCA Compliance

The Foundation abides by the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by responding to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the DMCA and other applicable laws. As part of our response, the Foundation will act expeditiously to remove or disable access to material on this web site that is claimed to be infringing.

The Foundation does not control content hosted on third party websites, and cannot remove content from sites it does not own or control. If you are the copyright owner of content hosted on a third party site, and you have not authorized the use of your content, please contact the administrator of that website directly to have the content removed.

Before serving either a Notice of Infringing Material or Counter-Notification, you may wish to contact a lawyer to better understand your rights and obligations under the DMCA and other applicable laws. The following notice requirements are intended to comply with the Foundation’s rights and obligations under the DMCA and, in particular, sections 512(c) and (d), and do not constitute legal advice. Please consult your legal counsel to confirm these requirements.

Notice of Infringing Material

To file a notice of infringing material on a site owned or controlled by the Foundation, please provide a written notification containing the following details:

1. Reasonably sufficient detail to enable us to identify the work claimed to be infringed or, if multiple works are claimed to be infringed, a representative list of such works (for example: title, author, any registration or tracking number, URL);

2. Reasonably sufficient detail to enable us to identify and locate the material that is claimed to be infringing (preferably a link to the page that contains the material, providing URLs in the body of an email is the best way to help MapStory locate content quickly);

3. Your contact information so that the Foundation can contact you (for example, your address, telephone number, email address);

4. A statement that you have a good faith belief that the use of the material identified in (2) is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;

5. A statement that the information in the notification is accurate and, under penalty of perjury, that you are authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the exclusive right that is alleged to be infringed.

6. Your physical or electronic signature.

Then send this notice to:

Please note that under Section 512(f) any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity is infringing may be subject to liability for damages. Do not make false claims!


If material that you have posted to a site sustained by the Foundation has been taken down, you may file a counter-notification that contains the following details:

1. Identification of the material that has been removed or to which access has been disabled and the location at which the material appeared before it was removed or disabled;

2. A statement, under penalty of perjury, that you have a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of mistake or misidentification of the material in question;

3. Your name, address and telephone number;

4. A statement that you consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court for judicial district in which your address is located or, if your address is outside of the USA, for any judicial district in which the Foundation may be found and that you will accept service of process from the person who submitted a notice in compliance with the section (c)(1)(C) of the DMCA, as generally described above;

5. Your physical or electronic signature.

Then send this notice to:

Please note that under Section 512(f) of the Copyright Act, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification may be subject to liability. Please also be advised that the Foundation enforces a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscribers who are repeat infringers.

API Usage Policy

At the core of MapStory are [ Open Geospatial Consortium] compliant web services (WMS, WMTS, WFS-T, WCS, and CS-W). These APIs will become available for registered MapStory users.

While the API Usage Policy is a work in progress, the MapStory Foundation reserves the right to filter API usage. As the core services are funded by the MapStory community, those using a disproportionate volume of service are subject to filtering.

More complete terms of service will be provided at a later date. Any questions regarding this by interested parties should be directed to

Trademark Terms of Use

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