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The atlas of change everyone can edit

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MapStory is a crowd-sourced geospatial data collection and visualization capability that allows users to create or upload geospatial data within a web-based, temporally enabled, geospatial information portal. MapStory allows users to tell narrative stories in a map-centric format. Data within MapStory is stored using industry standard formats for easy analysis within other commercial and open-source geospatial software packages. The data is freely available for download, enabling quick and efficient data sharing. MapStory also incorporates a social networking capability allowing users to collaborate on MapStories and to provide critical feedback on data quality through a user rating system and wiki-style editing tools.

MapStory was funded by the Geospatial Research Laboratory (GRL) and the Army Geospatial Center (AGC). Although the official effort ended in September 2013, the capability has continued to mature. MapStory's web presence and community initiatives are sustained by The MapStory Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization based in the United States.


Knowledge can be organized in encyclopedias and atlases to help everyone better understand the world around them. However, this information is static and often controlled by a small group of publishers. With the advent of the digital age, MapStory’s goal is to create a community of knowledge, similar to Wikipedia, to which anyone can contribute.  The contents and information can be constantly improved upon and updated. MapStory is essentially an atlas of change that anyone can edit. MapStory contributors are a community of users who envision a world where everyone’s knowledge can be tapped, peer reviewed, organized, and shared so that people can dramatically improve their understanding of the rich past, complex present, and uncertain future.

With respect to the Army, MapStory supports tactical-level geospatial data collection as an enhanced After Action Report (AAR) capability. The networked database and social network capabilities are intended to help reduce information loss during personnel transition and enable the quick, efficient sharing of data between military planners across multiple locations.


MapStory is built on the GeoNode architecture (an open-source enterprise geospatial information system), and MapStory’s features are Open Geospatial Consortium compliant.

MapStory allows users to freely:

  • Upload data and create data layers
  • Download data contributed by other users
  • Create and share MapStories using their own and/or other users’ data layers
  • Comment on, rate, and recommend changes to other users’ MapStories

Advanced users have the ability to download and edit the source code so that MapStory capabilities can work in conjunction with other open source software packages.


Many community members, including students, educators, humanitarians, business people, researchers, policy makers, journalists, and librarians have discovered the benefits of using MapStory; they shared their thoughts in video testimonials.


The first MapStory prototype was launched in April 2012. Since then, improvements to the platform have gradually been incorporated. The best way to understand the concept behind spatio-temporal (place and time) narratives and the MapStory implementation is to visit MapStory’s website. Users can sign up for an account (or log in with their Facebook or Google account) and begin to explore the current MapStory capabilities.  The Introductory Video (the website layout has been updated since the video, but the content is still relevant) and Wiki may also be of interest.

ERDC Points of Contact

Questions about MapStory?

Contact: Paul Holeva

Email: Paul.D.Holeva@usace.army.mil

Phone: (703) 428-6258

data visualization ERDC Geospatial Research Laboratory Geospatial-Temporal GRL USACE