Digital Tool Evaluation: Esri Story Maps

Since I was here last year and already had to do a quick Digital Tool Evaluation, I decided to take a different approach this year. I will talk about a tool I have had to use a lot this past year- Esri Story Maps from ArcGIS.

ArcGIS  Esri Story Maps is a tool that requires payment. At Gettysburg College, we gain access through the school. It is one of the tools used frequently in classes and other projects.  The mapping system can be used to create maps, narratives, and engaging visuals. It is not limited to one style of map or navigational experience. This system can be used to make different styles of maps, from the narrative Cascade to the functional Tour. Cascade focuses on how information is presented and delivered to audiences rather than creating a map. In fact, it can be made without using a conventional map at all. Tour, meanwhile, is a more traditional map tour that provides coordinates, pictures, and some information. Its style is not suited for in depth analysis, however. It serves to function as a map above all.

These maps can be embedded into sites, but it can also function as a site itself. While other mapping systems we use during the fellowship can also be an independent site, Esri story maps look better standing on their own.

The system is fairly easy to use. The interface is navigable for new users and tutorials exist to help master the tool. It takes time to learn everything, but it is not so difficult that it requires outside expertise.The website includes a blog with information about how to make and use story maps in engaging ways.

This tool is used by the school for many projects. While I will not use it for my own work, it has been useful for many other projects, from Killed at Gettysburg to the eventual Named Spaces website. It requires users to supply data, like coordinates and images, but does not require users to build a map from the ground up. Coding knowledge is not needed to make a sleek map. The college does, however, use another facet of ArcGIS to create maps for use in projects, like the Jack Piers Projects trench maps. Maps are supplied for those who cannot or do not want to build their own.

Some features could be improved, however. Inputting coordinates is tricky. I have input coordinates that are used in other mapping systems fine only to be taken to Antarctica while in Esri. The solution, I learned through trial and error, is to put reverse the coordinates. I don’t know why this discrepancy exists, but it can be frustrating. There is another method for inputting coordinates, but it is only specific to three decimal places and is not as accurate as it could be. The markers can also be moved on accident very easily, requiring constant reentering of data or approximating location to set the map back to how it was supposed to look.  

There are some questions supplied by the Criteria for Digital Tool Evaluation that I never thought about beforehand. These questions look into the documentation and data of the tool. I had never critically considered these issues before, as the tool always seemed good and secure. In the past week, I was alerted that the site would transition from HTTP to  the more secure HTTPS in order to increase security of the data. Esri does collect user data, but vows in its privacy statement to “use your personal information only for the benefit of Esri and our affiliates.” The code, meanwhile, is open source and hosted on GitHub for others to see. Esri encourages developer modification and collaboration through its code. As stated before, it does require subscription to use. This paywall limits the amount of people who can use the tool.

All in all, this tool is versatile and effective at what it does. It can be used to create maps and engaging visuals. While there are some tricks to be learned when using it, it is not prohibitively difficult to use. I will continue to work with these story maps to create engaging visuals and narratives.

Reflection #2

One of the most interesting digital tools that we learned last week was StoryMapJS. StoryMapJS is a great digital tool to tell stories that have geographical data associated with them. For me, I liked StoryMapJS better than utilizing ArcGIS because it is more user-friendly, both as a creator and an audience. ArcGIS was very confusing to me, while StoryMapJS just requires easy plug-in for great results.

This digital tool will be able to help me answer the important places that practice performance in Gettysburg, mapped out. This digital tool is free to use, which is great because it follows the ideology of accessibility of digital humanities. StoryMapJS requires location, text, and images. It would be important to make sure whatever media I use is free use. It is very important to me that the tools remain open source.

Some biases that StoryMapJS have made is that every ‘map’ is geographic in its nature. So, even if it is analyzing a painting, it is still reading as a map, technically. While that can be great, sometimes it may not be the best option, as images need to be extremely large in rendering.

I can not see how often the code is updated, so I don’t know if that would mean that something would break and never be able to be fixed.

Some other possible issue with StoryMapJS is that certain data is not great for mapping. While this will work for me because my data is condensed to one area, for data that covers the globe, it would be dizzying and annoying to use. The tool is easy to use and does not require outside expert or special technical skills.

I think that would use StoryMapJS for my project because it would add another layer of depth to my website.

Week Two Reflective Essay

One major difference between traditional and digital humanities is the analysis not only of not only content material but also its means of presentation. Digital Humanities (DH) appealed to me because last summer I did very traditional research and presented my findings in a formal critical essay. While I enjoyed the work and was proud of the product, I was acutely aware that access to such research was severely limited. In tone as well as form, a formal essay tends to be inaccessible to those outside of academia. While many digital tools aim to rectify this, they should nonetheless continue to be evaluated critically.

For this project, I want to make secondary research available to students and teachers, but I also want to make the texts themselves available. Moreover, I want students to be able to engage with the text as they read, the way they would be able to flag or even mark a physical text. For that reason, I’m interested in using an annotation tool to allow students and teachers to make comments on the primary texts. Group annotation fascinates me for its ability to allow for conversation among readers rather than belated dialogue that is so often the result of conversations across published works, but it nonetheless raises questions about who can and should be allowed in those conversations. My instinct is to allow all comments from all parties because negative feedback is an important part of the reading process; texts are not only valuable if they are faultless. Still, some negative comments could affect the availability of the work in that teachers may not choose to use this site for their students if some annotations are offensive or otherwise not school appropriate.

This itself raises further questions about who is allowed to join in the discussions in academic settings. My aim with this project was to eschew the coded languages of academia – those unspoken expectations about what counts as “scholarly.” While the availability of free annotations removes such expectations as writing in full sentences and not using contractions (generally separating spoken from written language along a false dichotomy), some expectations are maintained such that some amount of vetting for comments would be appropriate.

In addition to the fact that, for this project, the finished annotation would have to be deemed appropriate, inputting the annotation itself requires a certain amount of familiarity with the tool. The major source of inaccessibility in DH at large is the fact that it inherently requires technology to access it. Although technology is becoming more widely available throughout America, it is not universally familiar; even for those who have access to the internet, it is not always widely used. Thus, although many annotation tools are intuitive for regular users of social media (is not a comments section just a space designated for annotations?) and the internet at large, it may not be as clear how to use such tools if the internet is not familiar to a given user. In order to ameliorate this in my project, I intend to create a page that uses clear text and visuals in order to explain how to use the annotation tool, thus allowing for greater access. I think that this process of bridging gaps between expected use and possible use is a key aspect of DH, which annotation makes clear.

Reflective Essay 2

I’ve chosen to critically evaluate Timeline JS because I think it’s an interesting tool that will be very useful for me but one that I will have to use very carefully. There are certain aspects of Timeline JS that seem very effective and well put together, but with everything created by humans there are inherent assumptions made that I must watch.

One of the best aspects of Timeline JS is that it is open source. This allows many people to use it and is not only a tool for the wealthy. When I looked on their website they also seemed to have impressive documentation. The instructions for use were straightforward and easy to understand. You could probably figure it out on your own if you had to. There was also a technical documentation section where they had further instructions. Lastly, there was a clear FAQ section just in case problems arose or there was still confusion on the part of the user. From their website it really seemed as though they wanted this tool to be accessible to all people of all technical abilities and make everything as easy as possible. This was further demonstrated by the fact that one only needs the website and excel to use this tool. They also made it clear that you are able to put many types of media in the timelines you create so it supports all different types of visuals and styles of presentation. There are many ways in which the creators of Timeline JS have attempted to be conscientious and create a good experience for their users.

Because of the nature of this tool, there are inherent assumptions that the makers have made. The first one that comes to my mind is the nature of time itself. Time is a human construct, and we use it to measure things to make more sense out of them. But what if these things are not measurable by time? When we use time for things like this, we often end up attempting to fit something into a box that perhaps shouldn’t be fit into a box. This is especially important to me because I am working with eras, which are by nature, time bound, and yet there is great disagreement as to what these boundaries are. Many people think that the modern and postmodern eras are not really measurable through time because their ideas endure past the era and came into being far before. We are attempting to measure the flux and change in people’s beliefs through time and yet that assumes that people’s beliefs are time bound in a way.

A tool like this is also difficult because when we have a timeline we are choosing which events to put in this timeline and inherent biases come along with those choices. Which markers in history are we choosing to use? Whose history are we using? When we place certain events next to each other, is there risk that we are creating the guise of correlation when in truth they may have not been related at all? The problem with timelines are that they create a certain narrative that we want to make by using a strong rhetorical device that can easily be manipulated negatively. We must be very careful to choose our markers carefully and to not introduce correlation where it does not exist.

Nevertheless, I will use this tool for my project because, while these terms are difficult to place in time, it does make them easier to understand. They are products of and influencers on the times in which they were situated and so placing them into those physical years and events in those years will help.

ILE Reflective Essay #2

This week we learned about several tools we have access to and can incorporate into our websites. For this week’s reflection I would like to focus on Timeline JS – a tool I will become very familiar with by the end of the eight-weeks. Timeline JS is an open source tool developed by Knight Lab at Northwestern University. This digital tool is beneficial to projects that require a display of chronological information. After the user enters information into Google Sheets, the timeline created, and is ready to be embedded into the webpage.

Several assumptions are made by the developers like access to a Google account, understanding of Google Sheets, comprehension of the English language, and ability to add videos, images, external links, and social media. The tool can be used to present multi-faceted stories; however, it is up to the creators to pick the information which can lead to biased presentation of research. Timeline slides can be changed by using the mouse to click on the left/right buttons on the timeline or the left/right buttons on a computer keyboard. Although the tool appears to be unbiased, it allows for information to be presented from biased perceptions.

Key features of the tool focus on the adaptability and wider variety of media that can be added to the timeline. We have seen examples timelines with tweets, videos, images, documents, external links, and text. Timeline JS is different from current styles of timelines. Many organizations are leaning towards vertical displays of information (see ILE Project Charter for examples) – however, user interaction consists of scrolling down the page. I have not found a vertical timeline with external links; I have not had the time to properly interact will a wide range of timelines to understand the programs used, but I do know that creating the timeline within the page allows for HTML modification.

Basic use of the tool is not difficult because the downloadable Google spreadsheet provides several examples of the information needed to create a clear display. Something I recently learned was that the information does not need to be entered in chronological order Timeline JS to display it as such. (Neat, right?) Knowing this feature exist is great because I will often check the spreadsheets for missing information because I sometimes misarrange dates, but a mistake like this will not cause my timeline to be out of order. Timeline JS requires the user to have a Google account with access to the Google Drive – this permits Timeline JS to collect and display the information chosen by the user. The data of the timeline is owned by the publisher or location of information; I have to make sure I correctly cite the information I use in case someone else is interested in finding the same information.

Questions regarding Timeline JS must be sent to those working at Knight Lab – the website clearly states that the request can only be processed if they are in English. Due to the lack of tech support, questions might not be answered in a prompt manner. Unfortunately, I was not able to find anything with a schedule or time frame for tool updates. Modifications can be done to the timeline, but they require some understanding of CSS/HTML. Sometimes I forget the code for some changes, but a quick Google search helps with code. I am looking forward to working in Timeline JS, I believe it is user friendly and with a few code modification, I can design the timeline to reflect my vision.

Project Charter

Project Title: Where do we fit in? Gettysburg College in the modern and postmodern.


Project Owner: Augusta Pendergast


Project Summary

This project is about looking at Gettysburg College student publications over the last century and attempting to understand how these works fit into the larger context of the modern and postmodern eras. It includes historical analysis as well as literary analysis while all the while coming from a philosophical perspective. It will also attempt to answer the question of where we stand now, whether we are still situated in the postmodern period or whether we have moved on to something new by looking at contemporary student works.


Research Questions:

  • How do Gettysburg College students fit into the larger periods of cultural history known as the modern and postmodern periods?
  • What trends are there in current student work and how do these relate to the postmodern period?


Scope: It will be an interactive website with explanations of terms as well as contextualizing those terms in the broader American history by using a timeline. It will have also analysis and annotations of student works from publications like the Mercury and the Gettysburgian as well as shorter run, student created platforms. Lastly, it will have a list of the philosophers that are significant to the modern and postmodern periods and their main ideas that relate to this topic.



  • Books about the postmodern period that also discuss the modern period
  • Book with philosophers and their specific ideas
  • Books about the history of the college to situate some of the student works
  • Student writings from the Mercury and Gettysburgian
  • Student publications not necessarily created by the college itself
  • Student made pamphlets
  • WordPress website builder to create the cite
  • Timeline JS to make the timeline of all the philosophers, student publications, and the significant historical events related to the periods.
  • Storymaps JS to annotate images and potential student texts
  • Soundcite to add audio




Week 2: Project charter due Friday morning

  • First Draft of Philosopher Bios – beginning of week
  • First Draft of term definitions – middle of week
  • Look at Gettysburg history – end of week
  • Spend time in Special Collections figuring out student works – end of week


Week 3: wireframe due on Friday

  • Read student works and analyze – all week
  • Create timeline on paper of the events, student works, and philosophers
    • If you have time begin to make it on Timeline JS


Week 4:

  • Wrap up research
  • Make sure everything is organized well in order to put it online
  • Begin playing with website seriously to understand how everything works easier to make week 5 easier.


Week 5: Visualization Due Friday

  • Begin to take written notes and content and put it in online format – all week
  • Write an about the project page – end of week


Week 6: Project Draft due Friday

  • Continue to create website. Focus on visuals and embedding all the proper elements
  • Finish writing any pages such as the where are we now page if that’s not done
  • Get all bibliographical information in order


Week 7: Final Project due Friday

  • Work throughout the week to fix anything that needs fixing
  • Finalize everything, make sure everything works well
  • Test the website out on multiple users


Week 8: Presentation week!

  • Practice the presentation
  • Write out notes of what you will say
  • Practice in front of people and get them to ask tough questions
  • Make sure everything is lovely


End of Life/Future Plans

I would like this project to be largely complete by the end of eight weeks but I would like to be able to have the option to go in and keep adding if that’s something that I feel it needs. Because there are so many student works, it would be easy to just keep going and going and analyzing each one. If possible, it would be interesting to find a way for other students to add to this cite if they are interested themselves in reading and analyzing the student works because I known I won’t be able to do it all on my own. It can live on the Gettysburg website and I will send the link out to professors and teachers who I know

Project Charter

  • Project Name
    • The Great Task Remaining Before Us: Why Gettysburg Performs
  • Project Owner
    • Gauri Mangala
  • Project Summary
    • My project centers around the town of Gettysburg’s involvement in performance as a means of storytelling. Starting from the Gettysburg Address, Gettysburg has remained strong in its cultural roots as a historic landmark.
      • My research question: How has Lincoln’s call to action to remember what happened on the battlefield affected the way the people of Gettysburg remember history and tell stories?
      • In 8 weeks, I hope to have a specific understanding of the development of performance in Gettysburg College and a general understanding of the development of performance in the town of Gettysburg.
      • I believe my audience will most likely be people involved with the town of Gettysburg, either as residents, or regular tourists.
  • Deliverables
    • Photos/Videos/Audios of performances
    • Oral Histories
    • College History Books
    • Video interviews
    • Theory books on performance and the Gettysburg Address
    • TimelineJS
    • StoryMapJS
    • WordPress? Omeka? Who knows?
  • Timeline
    • Week 1:  preliminary college research
    • Week 2: plan interviews, finish basic college research, choose digital tools
    • Week 3: preliminary town research, adapt college research into embedded tools
    • Week 4: finish basic college research, finish digitization
    • Week 5: finish interviews (except for special circumstances), create all pages and embed college research
    • Week 6: adapt town research and publish to website, edit film
    • Week 8: practice practice practice, and edit website
  • End of Life/Future Plans
    • As I am only going into my sophomore year of college, my ultimate goal would be to continue this research. The more that I do this, I realize that maybe that will transfer itself into getting involved in Special Collections and continuing to archive performance materials and move them to my website, but in one way or another I want to continue this for as long as I am involved with Gettysburg.

Project Charter

Project Name: TBD, Gettysburg College Oral Histories, 1978

By Emma Lewis

This project utilizes audio from Oral Histories conducted by 1978 Gettysburg College class to provide interpretation for users. The interviews are concerned with the college in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, and interview people who attended, taught, worked, or were otherwise connected with the college at the time.

This project seeks to provide its audience with context surrounding the ideas talked about in the interviews and inform them about the tradition of Oral History at Gettysburg College. It will have a few broad topics, such as the Great Depression, college traditions, and women on campus, but will use smaller and more personal stories to connect these broad ideas to the audience.

It will consist of videos using the audio and media from the time to create interpretation, as well as textual interpretation for context. It will also provide links for further reading about certain topics, class reading used by the students in 1978, and other Oral Histories conducted at Gettysburg College.

The main purpose of this project is to connect the words of the Oral Histories to pictures, films, and other media in order to provide visual context to aid in a general audience’s understanding of the Oral Histories.


This project will need fairly few deliverables. The main thing I need to produce is video interpretation utilizing audio clips. I will gather media to use in videos and write scripts. I will also need to ensure that each interview has a transcript for use on the site.

I will use Scalar as my platform, so I will need to ensure that my pathways and connections make sense. This can be done in my wire frame, which will be completed by next week.


Week 1- June 4-8: Sort through the oral histories, find common topics.

Week 2- June 11-15: Read research books and refine topics.

Week 3- June 18-22: Choose topics and audio clips. Learn video editing tools and gather media. Finish wire frame.

Week 4- June 25-29: Write scripts and connect media to audio clips.

Week 5- July 2-6: Build media for the site.

Week 6- July 9-10: Finalize choices, finish building what is immediately necessary.

Week 7- July 16-20: Get it on the site. Check for issues.

Week 8- July 23-27: Refine the project, prepare for presentations.

Future Plans:

This project or a form of it can have a long life. More interpretation can be done with the interviews from the 1978 class. I am only using 10 interviews for the purposes of this summer, as I cannot analyze and interpret everything in 8 weeks. The idea can also be adapted to other Oral Histories on campus. There are many sources to draw from, new stories to be told, and other archived media to use as context. This style of project can augment existing Oral Histories. If I have the opportunity to continue work, I will gladly do so. This project has been exciting thus far.

ILE Project Charter

Project Name: Gettysburg College: A Diversity Story

Project Owner: Ivana Lopez Espinosa

Project Summary:

The project will be a multi-page website with description pages and four embedded timelines. The overview timeline consists of ‘firsts at Gettysburg College’ that can direct the user to one of the other timelines or more information on the person, event, or document. The other three timelines will contain firsts and other information specifically related to the diversity/ inclusion of students, faculty, and administration. Criteria for diversity include, but are not limited to, gender, sexualities, race, nationality, and religion different from the traditional college campus member – a white, heterosexual Lutheran man.

Research Question:

Over the years, Gettysburg College has focused on creating a diverse and inclusive environment by focusing on, but not limited to, student/faculty/administration retention rates, increasing cultural spaces, and supporting underrepresented students on campus. Gettysburg College has seen a small increase of diversity on campus in the last four years. Since the establishment of the institution, what have been significant events that contribute to the diversification and how have students/ faculty/ administration worked on maintaining, as well as increase, diversity at the college?

Scope of Project:

In the following seven weeks, I hope to have four cohesive timelines highlighting the diversity with the student body, faculty, and administration. My main objective is to create a website using the four websites with interactive timelines and pages relating to events or people I have the most information on. The timeline will link to other student works, Special Collections and College Archives, and external sites that contain information I want to display. I have a document with the location of files, pictures, and information I will reference to as the days progress. If time permits, I would be interested in creating a map with student demographics over time and cost of attending at the time.

Audience: Gettysburg College campus community (Current/ Prospective Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff)


Website, Home Page, timeline (student, faculty, administration, timeline embedded pages, mapping (time permitting), description pages (events, alumni, faculty, administration), images, documents, About page, Timeline JS skills (or other timeline tool), Omeka (for documents and images)


    • Week 2:
      • Create a document with all the information I have collected
      • Filter information and create timeline skeleton
      • Look at Overview timeline and edit
      • Start wireframe (paper → powerpoint)
      • Project charter (6/15)
      • Reflective essay (6/16)
    • Week 3:
      • Create documents of events/ people with the most information
      • Look at collected information and assign tags
      • Create a digital list of sources for images, documents, files, boxes
      • Bucknell (6/19)
      • Wireframe (6/22)
      • Reflective Essay (6/23)
    • Week 4:
      • Solidify featured information on timelines
      • Scan images and documents, start metadata (?)
      • Have 2.5 timelines completed
      • Have functional website outline
      • Create website home page, outlines of timeline pages, bio example, event description example, and document example
      • Mid-point assessment (individual 6/28, group 6/29)
      • Reflective essay (6/30)
    • Week 5:
      • Have at least 2.5 timeline feature pages complete
      • Review mock pages with librarian partners
      • Check tags
      • Have 74% of media collected
      • Visualization (7/6)
      • Reflective Essay (7/7)
    • Week 6:
      • Finish the rest of media uploading
      • Review timelines with librarian partners – send out for feedback
      • Bryn Mawr (7/12-13)
      • Project draft (7/12)
      • Reflective essay (7/14)
    • Week 7:
      • Check images, links, timelines, pages
      • Final edits
      • Create talking notes
      • Outline of presentation – what is the order of pages I wish to show
      • Project (7/20)
      • Reflective essay (7/21)
    • Week 8:
      • Practice presentation
        • Monday:
          • Morning run through
          • Around 11a
          • Around 3p
        • Tuesday:
          • Morning run through (use feedback to update presentation outline)
          • Around 2p
        • Wednesday:
          • Morning run through
          • Around 11a
          • Around 3p
      • Presentation (7/26)
      • Final group assessment (7/27)

End of Life/Future Plans:

I wish to keep the project alive for the next person interested in the topic to add more information. I do not know if I will have time to maintain the document, but I want to make the information and process accessible for others to use.

Project Examples:

“American Gothic Literature for Students” Project Charter

Project Name: American Gothic Literature for Students

Project Owner: Madison Cramer

Project Summary: I intend to create an interactive, multi-page website for high school students to use during their study of American Gothic literature. Students will be able to learn about the Gothic genre with an emphasis on mid- to late-nineteenth-century authors. The website will incorporate not only canonical authors, but also lesser-known authors of a variety of identities in order to better understand a more wholistic perspective of American Gothic literature.

Deliverables: My project will consist of a number of inter-linked pages, so I need to create brief but informative pages about specific authors and works, which will include links to other useful sources as well as full texts of relevant works. In addition I will create a home page, a page about the project and methodology, a bibliography, an index of authors and works, a page about characteristics of Gothic literature, and a variety of pages about recurring themes. I may also include a timeline (or several timelines) documenting the publication of certain influential works. Where helpful, I hope to include images and sound files that help contextualize authors and works within their historical and literary tradition.

Timeline: By the end of week one, I read secondary sources about Gothic as a genre and specifically how American Gothic evolved from its European predecessors. I also read The Castle of Otranto (the first Gothic novel) to identify the character, setting, and plot devices that would become tropes for the genre. By the end of week two, I will have created two pages about canonical authors and annotated at least three of their works with Gothic elements. By the end of week three I will have completed a wireframe of the interconnection among pages and the layout of those pages. I will also have a site with a landing page and a digital version of the pages I created to that point. In terms of my research, I will have created two pages about female authors and annotated their works. Since non-canonical authors will have works that are more difficult to access, I am not establishing a goal number of works to have annotated, but rather will choose a sample relative to the number of their works that are available. By the end of week four I will have created pages for an Asian-American author and a Latinx author, which I will upload to the site. In this week I will also create work pages for works I have annotated in the previous weeks. By the end of week five I will have created pages for two African-American authors, which I will upload to the site. I will also create and upload theme pages that indicate themes evident across all or many identities. During this week I will also upload a timeline either as its own page or as part of another page. By the end of week six I will have added links out to author biographies, full texts, and other relevant sources. I will also create an author index and upload any pages not included in the previous weeks. By the end of week seven I will trouble-shoot links within the site to make sure it is easy to navigate across pages. By the end of week eight I will be able to give a clear presentation about my project in its present state.

End of Life/Future Plans: I hope to continue adding to this website through my semester student teaching (Fall, 2018). Following my graduation, I would like to move the project to another server so I can continue to add authors, research, and resources.