Using Storymaps.js

The Fonseca Bust, a storymap
The Fonseca Bust, a storymap

A discussion on Twitter the other day – asking about the best way to represent ‘flowmaps’ (see DHQ&A) – led me to encounter a new toy from KnightLabs: Storymap.js. Knightlabs also provides quite a nice, fairly intuitive editor for making the storymaps. In essence, it provides a way, and a viewer, for tying various kinds of media and text to points along a map. Sounds fairly simple, right? Something that you could achieve with ‘my maps’ in Google? Well, sometimes, it’s not what you do but the way that you do it. Storymaps also allows you to upload your own large-dimension image so that you can bring the viewer around it, pointing out the detail. In the sample (so-called) ‘gigapixel’ storymap, you are brought around The Garden of Earthly Delights.

This struck me as a useful tool for my upcoming classes – both in terms of creating something that I could embed in our LMS and course website for later viewing, but also as something that the students themselves could use to support their own presentations. I also imagine using it in place of essays or blog post reflections. To that end, I whipped up two sample storymaps. One reports on an academic journal article, the other provides a synopsis of a portion of a book’s argument.

Here’s a storymap about the Fonseca Bust.

Here’s a storymap about looting Cambodian statues.

In the former, I’ve uploaded an image to a public google drive folder. It’s been turned into tiles, so as to load into the map engine that is used to jump around the story. Storymap’s own documentation suggests using Photoshop’s zoomify plugin. But if you don’t have zoomify? Go to sourceforge and get this: . It requires that you have Python and the Python Image Library installed (PIL). Unzip zoomifyimage, and put your image that you want to use for your story in the same folder. Open your image in any image processing program, and find out how many pixels wide by high it is. Write this down. Close the program. Then, open a command prompt in the folder where you unzipped zoomify (shift+right click, ‘open command prompt here’, in Windows). At the prompt, type <your_image_file>

If all goes well, nothing much seems to happen – except that you have a new folder with the name of your image, an xml file called ImageProperties.xml and one or more TileGroupN folders with your sliced and diced images. Move this entire folder (with its xml and subfolders) into your google drive. Make sure that it’s publicly viewable on the web, and take note of the hosting url. Copy and paste it somewhere handy.

see the Storymap.js documentation on this:

“If you don’t have a webserver, you can use Google Drive orDropbox. You need the base url for your exported image tiles when you start making your gigapixel StoryMap. (show me how)).”

In the Storymap.js editor, when you click on ‘make a new storymap’, you select ‘gigapixel’, and give it the url to your folder.  Enter the pixel dimensions of the complete image, and you’re good to go.

Your image could be a high-resolution google earth image; it could be a detail of a painting or a sculpture; it could be a historical map or photograph. There are also detailed instructions on running a storymap off your own server here.