To MSU and Beyond: Sharing Excavation Findings using KnightLab StoryMapJS

To MSU and Beyond: Sharing Excavation Findings using KnightLab StoryMapJS

This academic year has allowed me to explore several digital methods I had little to no knowledge about. This is partially due to my teaching position at MSU in the Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research (LEADR). While in this position, I was a LEADR TA for Dr. Gillian Macdonald’s ISS 325: War and Revolution course. The topics covered in the course were international security and borderlessness. One of the class projects involved creating a story map encompassing these concepts.

You may be asking, what is a story map? A story map is a method that utilizes time, space, and media to tell a story and showcase research. As a public-facing tool, this method is a great way to get ideas across to your audience.

The tricky thing was that, while I understood the concepts behind story maps and why they are an important tool for disseminating research, I did not know how to make a story map myself. This meant that I needed to create one so that I understood the process and could help students work through any potential hiccups or roadblocks that they would encounter. But I was facing my own mental roadblock in that I had no idea what to make a story map about! So, after discussing potential ideas with Ben, our Campus Archaeologist, we thought that making a CAP-themed story map would be a great CAP project.

My project is not the first CAP story map (for example, if you’re interested in a story map about past campus cuisine, you can find that here), so I was able to scroll through past projects and learn more about what had already been presented by CAP Fellows. For the ISS course, I created a story map focusing on significant excavations conducted by MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program. Due to the substantial volume of archaeological fieldwork CAP has performed, and the constant turnover of Campus Archaeology fellows, the function of this storymap was meant to be two-fold: 1) create a public-facing description of some of CAP’s

Like many CAP Fellows before me, I utilized Knightlab StoryMapJS to create my project. Knightlab is an open-source project created and hosted by Northwestern University, which you can learn more about here. This particular tool has a lot of published instructions and how-to’s, making the tool more accessible for people to learn.

The editing tab of the story map that Aubree created to learn the process for the ISS 325 course.
The editing tab of the story map that I created to learn the process for the ISS 325 course.

While I enjoyed this project, much of the information has been presented by a previous CAP Fellow (you can visit that story map here). We will also be working to update the existing project with some of the excavations we’ve done since the map was made. With that skillset in had, the real work can begin!

The story map that I am creating will be called “To MSU and Beyond: How our campus fits in the world.” I will be exploring where MSU artifacts come from, and when they could have made their way to our campus. Most of the artifacts come from around the United States, but there have been a few international finds as well. When working with Knightlab StoryMapJS in particular, each new slide will move to a new space on the map; to the right side, there will be a panel with a picture and information about the artifact(s) that came from the area pinpointed on the map. The goal is for this story map to be utilized by CAP in the future to show the general public how we are connected to other states and other countries, and when those connections were occurring.

Stay tuned to see the final product launch in a few months!

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