The old adage is “a picture is worth a thousand words” and that holds especially true in GIS and Geoscience fields. Any professional path that involves analyzing data or supporting decision makers will run into the challenges (and opportunities!) that come with presenting data in a way that truly conveys relevant information. In many instances this means creating a zoning map that communicates the ways a proposed change may affect an area or finding the right layout to display appropriate available real estate for a commercial development.

Sometimes, however, the information you’re imparting becomes the story you’re entrusted with telling and you have the opportunity to stretch your creative muscles with a story map! Story maps can be used to convey nearly any idea or narrative that is linked to a location, and can be leveraged to great effect in many different industries for businesses of all size. Story maps are customizable, impressive, and truly get at the heart of letting your data tell its story.

Recently I was lucky enough to work on a couple of story map projects in my position as a Student GIS Analyst here at the APSU GIS Center and both were gratifying and allowed me to assist in providing true value-added content for our clients and the communities they serve. The first, a business showcase map in conjunction with the Clarksville Chamber of Commerce provides a great resource for Chamber members to have their business featured in an interactive, professional, and localized service and product finder. The second project, a story map highlighting the developing history of Austin Peay and its role in the community in partnership with the Felix G. Woodward Library, provides a media-rich glimpse into the character of the University and its compelling history.

I am a non-traditional student and returned to school after a decade in the professional workforce. I worked previously as a GIS Technician and an Athletics Operation Manager and both sets of skills were useful. Both opportunities provided me with experience creating valuable content and allowed me the opportunity to use my professional skills and the knowledge I have gained as a student at Austin Peay and as a student employee at the APSU GIS Center.

For the Chamber of Commerce project, membership lists, contact information, and images were gathered from the Chamber and implemented into a Short List Story Map. This format allowed me to categorize businesses for ease of use, and frame the search in the context of the basemap in a way most users will be familiar with from web searches and web map use. Additionally, a little coding was done to customize the appearance of the web map to be in line with the Chamber’s branding.

For the APSU Campus History project with the Library, we started with a collection of historic photography and really deep dived into the story we could tell about the campus through library archives and the PR and Marketing Department’s photo collection. We decided the best way to frame this was with a Cascade Story Map, as the story really deserved a narrative-heavy frame. This is a media-heavy project and most of the value of a good Story Map will be in the basic content. The historic photo archives are beautiful and fascinating and should foster a sense of connection and pride in the campus community.

These projects allowed me to dive in with deployable web maps and get an understanding of how to leverage GIS and Technology to connect people to the places around them.

Learn more about implementing ESRI’s Story Maps

Visit the Library’s Archives and Collections

View the APSU Campus History Story Map

-Rachael Perkins 10.12.18