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Digital Storytelling Sampler

Peruse a sampling of digital storytelling tools, discussed and reviewed by Libraries staff

What is ArcGIS StoryMaps?

StoryMaps is a configurable web application used to create digital narratives that incorporate a variety of media. Creators without any website development or design experience can use it to build dynamic web presentations. StoryMaps is a software product offered through ArcGIS, a suite of geographic information system (GIS) tools created by the company, Esri. While the StoryMaps interface excels at displaying maps, it is well-suited for a variety of media and disciplines. To access the StoryMaps builder, you must create a free ArcGIS Public Account.

Before you begin


A basic rich text editor allows you to customize the style and format of written content. Available formats include headings, paragraphs, lists, and quotes.

Consider web writing best practices and the overall length of a StoryMaps page when preparing long-form content.

StoryMaps have a scrolling interface that works best when text and media are coordinated to hold the viewer’s attention and propel the narrative.


Images and videos can be uploaded directly or added with a URL link. Attributions and alt text are supported within the individual media settings.

Immersive content options include slideshows and sidecars, both of which display full-screen media with optional floating text blocks.

Interactive media such as swipe image comparisons, maps, and map tours help create a more active viewing experience.


The use of data in StoryMaps primarily applies to creators working with geospatial resources.

StoryMaps can display web maps that are created using ArcGIS. These can incorporate original or publicly available datasets which contain location-based information.


Text formatted as a heading will appear in a docked menu bar at the top of the page, allowing viewers to navigate between sections in a non-linear way.

Multiple StoryMaps can be grouped in a Collection and presented as a navigable set.


StoryMaps key features

StoryMaps is ideally suited for multimedia presentations that utilize multiple forms of content to support a narrative. Text, images, videos, and maps can be integrated in a customizable layout to create a dynamic user experience. Below are some tips for developing multimedia content and layouts.

  • Text

    • Start with an outline. Consider section headings that will progress naturally and help viewers navigate the story.

    • Think about visuals early in the writing process, not as an afterthought.

    • Use text formatting and layout to emphasize important details and pivotal moments in the narrative.

  • Images & video

    • Supported file types include: jpg, png, gif, svg, and mp4.

    • Consider adding custom graphics such as animated gifs, charts, and graphs to better illustrate the story.

    • Add attributions and alternative text for web accessibility within individual media settings. Attributions can include hyperlinked text indicating the source.

  • Maps

    • While not required, incorporating maps can add a lot of impact to your story.

    • Maps can serve different roles: establishing geographic context, displaying spatial data, drawing connections between places, and depicting movement across space.

    • See more details in the Maps tab.

  • The elements of a StoryMap are called content blocks.

  • Coordinating these elements to create a visually compelling and cohesive product is an experimental process. Don’t be afraid to click all the buttons and see what works! 

  • Change the size, position, and arrangement of elements to create a visual flow that compliments the narrative.

  • Preview the StoryMap while editing to view the page as it appears on different devices and anticipate any compatibility issues. 

  • See the Immersive content tab for more on StoryMap layouts.


The Mount Zion Baptist Church of Athens, Ohio

This StoryMap by the Mount Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society features an impressive selection of primary source images, contemporary oral histories, guided tours, and  historical maps, taking full advantage of the platform's multimedia capabilities.

Since 1804: Glimpses of People and Places of Athens & OHIO

This digital exhibit created by Ohio University Libraries demonstrates the utility of a StoryMaps Collection, presenting multiple stories as a cohesive set. It also exemplifies visual flow and layout variations that help maintain audience engagement.

The StoryMaps builder offers several immersive content options that are very effective at emphasizing visuals, focusing the narrative, and guiding an audience through content.

  • Slideshow - Displays a sequence of images with optional floating text. Best for supporting images that are not central to the narrative and those that require minimal text.

Image of giraffe with floating text box and arrows pointing left and right

  • Sidecar - Displays full-screen media with a narrative side panel that is either docked or floating. When populated with static maps, a sequence of sidecar slides can be used to progressively reveal layers and points of interest as viewers scroll.

Map with side panel for explanatory text and images

  • Map Tour - Guides viewers through a series of map destinations with accompanying text and images. The Explorer layout allows them to select destinations from a list. In both layouts the map is fully interactive.

Map with numbered points and corresponding box with text and images.


Indiana Limestone

This StoryMap from the Indiana Geological Survey was created using a previous version of the StoryMaps builder, however it demonstrates an effective use of immersive content blocks to feature highly detailed archival images throughout the narrative.

Using maps to help tell a story can add a layer of spatial representation or analysis to the narrative. They can be either active or passive. Static maps lead viewers through the visualization without opportunities for distraction, while interactive maps invite them to explore.

  • Map Tour - An immersive content option that guides viewers through a series of map destinations with accompanying text and images. The Explorer layout allows them to select destinations from a list. In both layouts the map is fully interactive.

  • Express Maps - Customizable maps created within the StoryMaps builder make it easy to add points, areas, pop-ups, and annotations. Adjust the symbology, basemap, and interactive functions to suit your immediate use.

  • Web Maps - Created using the ArcGIS Online Map Viewer, these can be saved within your account and imported to StoryMaps. Web Maps have a steeper learning curve than Express Maps, but they can accommodate more complex visualizations. If you have a spreadsheet with location data (latitude and longitude, or place names), these can be added as a map layer. Within the Map Viewer you can also browse public datasets to display in your maps.

    Additionaly, using ArcGIS Web Maps allows you to choose from a variety of configurable apps, how you would like to display and share a map. The StoryMaps builder is one of several options. Others include comparison viewers, maps that display media, and those that collect crowdsourced submissions.


Displaced: A history of race and place in Southwest Minneapolis

This StoryMap created by Marguerite Mills is an example of “deep mapping” which draws evidence from a wide range of sources and investigates a subject using a variety of media and geospatial visualizations.