Research Realities and Running Out of Time

In my last blog post I was at home optimistically learning about some park history and tinkering around with my story map. After that blog post it took me way too long to figure out that I was not using the correct kind of story map for what I wanted to build. Who knew?

When I initially agreed to doing a story map I had only gone on to the website and looked through a handful of the examples on the home page. They looked great, and I thought it would be a great way to present my project. However, they were all presentation based story maps whereas what I was trying to use this whole time was a single map (the Story Map Basic Builder) . To be fair, if you don’t have experience with the program it does look like there is a way to add photos and text and build the map into a presentation and there actually may well be such a way, and I just assumed that at the end it would turn itself into the presentation style that I had seen on their homepage. I spent many hours drawing out my route, adding descriptions to the lines, and watching videos to try and figure out how to add pictures. There was just this elusive button that appeared in all the tutorials, but that I could never locate on a menu.

After another long day of being unable to locate this button, I complained to my dad about the problem I was having. He suggested I try it on our desktop computer instead of my laptop. Willing to try anything, I pulled up the website on our desktop. However, the way I accessed the website was different from before. On my laptop, when I went to begin my story map I somehow got sent straight into the Story Map Basic Builder. When I was on the desktop though, the website invited me to take this great little quiz about what application is best for your project! I was thrilled! Something different at last! I took the quiz. I told it I wanted to share pictures, but I must have emphasized the pictures part of it too much because that spat me out into Story Map Tour.

Naively, I dove right in. The format didn’t look quite the same as the presentations I saw on the home page, but I could upload pictures now! Of course, to upload pictures I first had to share them on flickr and there was a limit to the number of pictures I could upload, so I had to go through hundreds of pictures and pick the competitive few I would use. Once I found the pictures I liked, I had to place them on the map where they were taken. This whole process took an embarrassingly long amount of time. Of course, once did all of this I realized there was no good place to share text. You could caption the photos, but I needed more room for text than that.

Furious that I had wasted my own time again, I went back to the story map site and finally located their full apps list. This is where I found Story Map Cascade, the kind of story map I had wanted to use from the beginning and the kind of story map displayed by almost all of the examples I had looked through upon deciding to pursue the story map route. From there I started to build a basic story line of my trip through my journal entries and photos. Already the story map was much longer than anticipated. I hadn’t even added video or sound or descriptive pieces or background research or my reflective piece or anything from my interviews. Not to mention I came no where near the depth of research that I had hoped to do. It was clear cuts would need to be made. However, where these cuts would be I did not yet know.

Since I hadn’t transcribed the interviews yet, I moved to do that hoping that they would bring more clarity to my project; however, they did just the opposite. The interviews covered so many vast and important topics that I honestly don’t know how I will narrow them down into the final project. From here it is just a matter of selecting the best quotes, videos, and brief histories of the parks and inserting them into my story map. I will likely cut many of the descriptive pieces since comparatively they add relatively little value to the project for how much space and how many words they consume. Additionally, almost none of my sound bites turned out successfully so I am cutting that portion of the project as well (turns out an iPhone microphone is not that good at picking up distant sounds).

At this point, I am mostly just disappointed. I accomplished so little relative to what I had wanted to do. All I can hope for is that the final product I come up with will still be a valuable resource in exploring the history, conservation, and value of our national parks even if it is not what I had initially envisioned.


  1. Hi, Hannah! I’m sorry to hear that the Story Map software didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. I know what it’s like to be deceived by beautiful products of these programs only to find out that they’re A LOT harder to use than they play it off to be. Despite all your frustrations in working with this program, I’m sure your project turned out fantastically! No matter how you ended up presenting it, I’m sure you did the parks justice in conveying their history, conservation, and value. Looking forward to reading your last blog posts to see how your project turned out!