Using ArcGIS StoryMaps for an Urban University Walking Tour

What Is ArcGIS? (And a Modern Example for Usage)

ArcGIS StoryMaps is an immersive storytelling platform.  The user can integrate text, photos, videos, and other multimedia to thoughtfully create context for a web map, thus forming narratives that can both inform and encourage exploration. 

ArcGIS StoryMaps is frequently used for history or a re-telling / exploration of the past.  However, StoryMaps can also be used for contemporary purposes, one of which I have imagined for this tutorial below.

Example Situation:

Luckily, here at Carleton, move-in day and New Student Week create a seamless transition into the campus because of our small student body and small campus size.  However, I think about a friend of mine who struggled with move-in day at the University of Toronto, and finding all of the buildings she needed to get registered and prepared for classes.  Large universities that are located in big cities (where the school buildings are scattered throughout downtown, such as the University of Toronto) can be overwhelming for first-year students who are unfamiliar with the campus or local city.  Walking tours are typically not available or convenient for colleges whose campuses are sprawled throughout a city. In this case, having a virtual tour could be beneficial! We will use ArcGIS StoryMaps to create an example tour.  

How To Get Started With ArcGIS StoryMaps

Step 1: New Story

Go to After registering for (or signing into) ArcGIS StoryMaps, click New Story.

You can either start a StoryMap from scratch, or Quick Start with multiple default formats. For our purposes, we will be using the default Explorer map tour option.

Click on the “New Story” button on the upper right hand corner, and then select “Explorer map tour”.

Step 2: Adding Headings

You will be greeted with a blank StoryMap, like the one below.

Your blank StoryMap.

To start off, let’s give our StoryMap a title and subtitle.

Add a title and subtitle to your StoryMap!

You can also add a cover image by clicking the Add cover image or video button near the top of your StoryMap, which will bring up a box like the one below. Upload an image that suits your StoryMap!

Adding a cover image.

Step 3: Introduction / Background Info

If you cover near the body of your StoryMap, a circle button with a plus sign will appear. Much like WordPress, this allows you to add a content block.

Notice the button with the plus sign that says “Add content block”.

There’s many choices for a content block, from text to images to audio. For our StoryMap, we will add a Text block so we can insert an introductory paragraph before our map.

Add a text block.
We’ve added a text block with a sample introduction.

Step 4: Making the Map

Now that we’ve set up the introduction portion of our StoryMap (heading, subheading, cover image, and introduction), we can move on to the actual map! Your blank map should look something like this:

Let’s start by browsing Map Options setting near the top right corner of your map. Here, you can explore different visual settings for your map, depending on the purpose and aesthetic needs of your map. After making any changes, click Done and go back to your StoryMap.

“Map Options” allows you to change the visuals of your map.
After making changes with “Map options”.

Step 5: Adding Your First Tour Stop

Time to input our first spot on our guided tour! Follow these steps to set the foundations of each spot you’ll have on your map:

  1. Click on Add location
    1. Copy and paste your building’s address into the search bar, and click Enter.  Once the map has located your building, click Add to map and then Add location. (See fig. 1)
  2. Add a title and description
    1. Note how there is, again, an Add Content Block button.  You can add multiple paragraphs of text, a button that leads to another link, or an audio clip – which could be great for virtual tours such as these! (See fig. 2)
  3. Add up to five images (See fig. 2)
  4. Congratulations!  You’ve completed your first stop on your StoryMap!
Fig. 1 Type in the building’s address into the search bar on the upper right, click “Add to Map”, and “Add location”.
Fig. 2 Add a title, description, and images for this spot on the tour. Note that you can “Add content block” to add further information.

Step 6: Adding More Spots on the Tour

Now that you’ve learned how to add the first spot on your StoryMap Tour, you can continue to making the rest of your tour!

Click the + button on the right end of bottom slide bar to add another spot on your StoryMap tour. 

Repeat Step 5 for each spot that you add to your StoryMap.  Note that, on the bottom slide bar, you can drag the slides around to change the order of the spots along your tour. 

Click on the circle button with a “+” on the right end of the bottom slide bar to add another spot on your StoryMap. Here, we’ve completed another tour spot for John P. Robarts Research Library.

(As you add more spots along your tour, little pins will appear at the location site of each spot. As the viewer scrolls through your StoryMap, the map will automatically move to the location pin of the tour spot they are currently exploring!)

You can always Preview your work before you Publish, and your StoryMap will always be available for your to come back and edit!

Additional Resources

Want to further explore the beauty of ArcGIS StoryMaps? Check out the links below!

StoryMap Resources : Helpful tutorials, videos, articles, and tips to create a compelling narrative with StoryMaps.

Examples from the ArcGIS StoryMaps community : Over 170 examples of StoryMaps, covering a broad range of topics and disciplines. Get inspired!


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