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Mapping and GIS Lessons for Poets, Historians, and Scientists: ARCGIS Activity 1

CS-X Module created by Emily Fairey, Brooklyn College OER Developer

ARCGIS StoryMaps Activity 1

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 file 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.