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ANTH 3360: Language Loss: Culture, Politics and Self: Mapping With ARCGIS: The Basics

Language Loss: Culture, Politics, and Self



StoryMaps: Getting Started

ARCGIS StoryMaps: Introductory Activities

Part 1: Two Pins and a Line

1) Create a new ARCGIS map. Save and title the map. It is possible to the this exercise so that each student uses an individual map, or you can create one map that is used by the entire class. Choose two "historic" buildings or places in Brooklyn.

2) Search for the addresses in the "Find a place" box. Using Map Notes, create ARCGIS pins for them. Change the color, shape and size of the pins and Illustrate them with online images of the building. If you don't have one, you can use one from Google Maps, but make sure you save the map as an image (.jpg, .png, .gif.) Add a short description of each building, which you will place in the pin.

3) Add a line that make a path between the two pins. Change the color and the style of the line, and illustrate it with an online image. 

Part 2: CSV Import

1) On a computer with Microsoft Excel, or another spreadsheet program, download and open the above CSV file: Database of Historic Buildings in Brooklyn. Save the map and give it a title. What kind of information do you see in this document? Which fields (columns) will be most important for historical research on these buildings? Which could be eliminated and why? Keeping in mind that your CSV file must have only 99 entries (rows), think of criteria you will use to select them. These could be factors such as date of build, architectural style, or zip code-any way that you want to prioritize a certain data sample.

2) Pare down the CSV file to the smallest, cleanest sample you can while still retaining significant data. Make a list of the fields you will keep in your table. 

3) Open a new ARCGIS map, and import the CSV file. You may need to do this several times if data needs formatting.

4) Map the Address and the Zip code fields to address and zip code headings in ARCGIS.

5) Choose a main and a numerical attribute field to show on the map: options include "date of construction, roof elevation, or ground elevation. Work with "clustering" features to signal significant differences between dot groups. Look at what happens when you choose different attributes to show on the map.

6) Click one of the dots on the map and click "edit." What can we edit and what can't we edit with this sort of map in ARCGIS? What do we learn from looking at a map like this?

7) Optional: Add a field to your table called "Image URL" and populate the column with urls of images of the buildings. Import the file into a new ARCGIS map. Do you see anything different when you click on one of the map points?

Part 3: Presentation

1) Choose one of your ARCGIS maps from which you will create a presentation. Make sure that your maps are set to "public" (you can find this option by clicking on the "share" button. 

2) Click "Create Presentation" (This is located next to "New Map" button on the upper right.)

3) The way this feature of ARCGIS works is to make any given view of a map into a slide. Create a presentation with at least 5 slide views of the map. These should be at different zoom levels and show different places on the map  Use the configuration buttons to add popups and to set the zoom levels. 

4) Save and share presentation.


  • Explore the features of ARCGIS interface, learn basic operations including:
    • Basemap
    • Map Notes
    • CSV Import
    • Presentation
  • Consider what types of ARCGIS map tools can answer which sorts of questions.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think of the usability of creating Map Notes in ARCGIS? Basemaps, Presentations? How easy was it to do?
  • What do you think of the appearance of the Map Notes in ARCGIS ? 
  • What advantages and disadvantages are there to heavy hyperlinks and illustrations, and even multimedia in ARCGIS digital maps?
  • What advantages and disadvantages are there to maps with CSV import in ARCGIS?
  • Compare and contrast ARCGIS with Google Earth and Rumsey Maps

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop enough practice with ARCGIS to be familiar with the interface.
  • Learn about the possibilities as well as limitations of ARCGIS. 


Advanced ARCGIS StoryMaps Activity

Part 1: Choose a building

1)  Using the Database of Brooklyn Historic Buildings file from ARCGIS Activity 1, or another academic or official resource, (I have listed several below) find an NYC building you wish to research. 

2) Create, title and save an ARCGIS StoryMap. Consult tutorials on this site to help choose the type of StoryMap that will best fit. StoryMap Journal is a good choice for this exercise.

3) In your first StoryMap slide, create a map onto which you add a pin of your building. Choose an appropriate basemap and save.

Begin historical research on the building you have chosen. The Database of Buildings file from part one is a good place to begin, and I have listed several good resources below. Also try the "Further Resources: Data" page of this site.

Areas to investigate:

Date: When was the building constructed? Was it ever renovated, and if so, when and why?

Architect: Do we know who the architect or builder of the building was? If so, find out as much as possible about this person's career, background, and life. How did this architect come to build the building? 

Build Style: What type of building is it? A row house, a warehouse, a brownstone? Did it "fit" into the architecture neighborhood at the time? Does it still or not, and why?

Neighborhood: What is the neighborhood of this building? What was there before the building? What has happened since it was built? Describe the changes this neighborhood has gone through over time and how this has affected the life of the building.

Function: What was the building used for originally? Is it still used for the same purpose? How does this reflect changes in NYC over time?

Bibliography: As you go, collect bibliographic references and links and save all relevant files and documents in a folder. This will make things easier when you build your StoryMap and a bibliography.


Create a StoryMap to tell the story of the building you chose. For an example, see the box on the lower right for a StoryMap on the history of the Fairway building in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The idea of this StoryMap is to present resources with your own original annotations and comments. Avoid simply creating slides with resources, every slide should contain a paragraph in your own writing, proofread for grammar and style. Rather than simply describing each resource, talk about what each resource shows us about the subject of analyzing your building's history. 

Elements can be included on the main stage, the side panel (using Story Actions) and the Map Notes. The StoryMap should contain at least one, and preferably several, of each of the elements listed below. There should be at least one "dynamic" ARCGIS map in which the view of the map changes automatically and "animates." This can be achieved with Story Actions or the Basic Presentation of ARCGIS. Finally you must include a formatted bibliography of all resources used in the final slide. 

Elements to include: 

  • ARCGIS Maps: These can illustrate the both the building itself in its environs, as well as the life of the architect and changes in the neighborhood over time. It is also possible to incorporate a basic ARCGIS presentation (of the type described in the ARCGIS Basics section above) into the StoryMap.
  • Historic Maps: It is important to include historic maps that show the area before and after the creation of your building. It is possible to overlay these over a modern map using the David Rumsey Georeferencer, or Google Earth Desktop Pro, or the desktop ARCGIS.
  • Newspaper articles, academic articles, book excerpts: Find relevant documentation on your building, neighborhood, and architect. Primary sources (contemporary news,for instance) is particularly valuable. Search the CUNY databases as well as the resources listed below. Text documents must be added to StoryMaps as web pages; they cannot be uploaded directly to the platform. If this creates a visual problem, try saving an article as an image to pul it into the platform.
  • Images: Modern and historic images of the building, of the neighborhood, of the architect. Paintings, drawings and photographs. Don't be afraid to crop images to show details if resolution is good. ARCGIS will process most images but prefers those with the prefix "https" over "http". It is also possible to upload images directly to ARCGIS if they are not too large.
  • Web pages: StoryMaps can import an entire web page into its viewer. Just put in the web address, and make sure you click "configure."
  • Videos: StoryMaps can pull a video into its viewer. Just put in the web address, and make sure you click "configure." 

Learning Objectives

  • Perform extensive primary research on a building in the context of history. 
  • Attain sufficient skill with ARCGIS Storymaps to create a presentation on this research that will illustrate the transitions of your building and its neighborhood over time, as well as the story of the building's creator.
  • Learn good practices of selecting sources and media for illustration, note taking, bibliography, and citation. 
    • Include supplemental secondary research as needed.
    • Include relevant, clear sources and media, including historic maps. 
  • Practice formal analytic and narrative writing, which should accompany all sources (maps, articles, media) you include. 
    • Organization of your sources and original writing to create a logical flow. 
    • Create a formatted bibliography of all primary and secondary sources
  • Make use of the features of ARCGIS StoryMaps. This can be as simple as including dynamic changes in view, including "Story Actions." There also are many more technical possibilities involving file import. Explore and see what features might best fit the type of presentation you want to give.

Discussion Questions

  • What is the difference between making a StoryMap on an old building as opposed to writing a research paper on the same topic?
  • What do you think the difference will be for a learner who looks at a well-crafted StoryMap as opposed to simply reading about this topic? 
    • Would you answer the same way if the StoryMaps topic were anything, not just the investigation of an old building?
  • What was the experience of working with StoryMaps like for you as a developer?
    • Are there any technical features of StoryMaps which are especially useful, or any which were problematic?

Learning Outcomes

  • Gain experience with the process of channeling historical research into an original presentation.
  • Learn about the potential of GIS mapping not merely to illustrate, but to serve as the platform for original research.
  • Develop criteria for reputable, relevant source selection, and learn how to respond to these in writing.
  • Gain practice in placing sources in a sequence that is both logical and compelling.