Mapping Marriage Project Review

With the spring semester wrapping up, it’s time to wrap up our Mapping Marriage project. This week, we were asked to evaluate our StoryMap using the criteria laid out by the Journal of American History for digital history reviews. Looking at our project today, here’s how I would review it.

Mapping Marriage in Clay County, MN, 1901 & 1921. Created by H. Fods, J. Haeg, A. Johnson, J. Mans, J. Olson, A. Roberts, D. Steedsman, and S. Strootman. Reviewed April 17, 2020.

Mapping Marriage in Clay County, MN, 1901 & 1921 is a digital narrative project created using StoryMaps from ArcGIS Online. The narrative displays the results of research conducted by eight undergraduate students at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. Although there is some engagement with current scholarship, especially as pertains to marriage and dating culture, the majority of the narrative is written in a style suited for a wide audience. The narrative focuses not only on the results of the research, but also on the process the students used to conduct their research and create their digital presentation. In that capacity, the StoryMap serves not only as a research project, but also as a guideline for conducting similar research.

The design of the project is professional-looking: clean and simple, but with adequate images and media to break up the reading experience. However, there is no capacity for users to jump to different sections of the narrative. One has to scroll through the entire StoryMap, even when only trying to reach certain sections. If the project were to be updated, perhaps some sort of function to click to different headings would be useful. If StoryMaps does not have that capability, then a “table of contents” of sorts would allow viewers to gauge what sections they might want to focus on, or how far they should expect to scroll to reach what they’re looking for.

The digital presentation makes effective use of ArcGIS Online’s mapping capabilities, featuring two maps. The maps are fully interactive and display several pieces of data with each point. The interactivity of the data analysis section is particularly notable. While keeping with the narrative style, users are encouraged to click through analysis slides that are both visually engaging and contain important data.

Overall, the project is visually appealing and narratively engaging. Further thought needs to go into how to best display the bibliography section, as it is currently a jumbled list in the footer. A clear establishment of audience would also be beneficial. The tone seems to appeal to a wide range of viewers, but zeroing in on a specific audience would help make the purpose of the narrative a little clearer.

As you can probably tell, I’m not experienced in writing formal reviews. However, I do want to acknowledge how proud I am of the work my classmates and I have accomplished. Especially since we’ve had to work on this for the past month completely remotely, I’m very impressed with what content we were able to deliver and the overall professional look of it. Of course there can always be improvements, and I’d love to hear what you think we can do to add to or improve our StoryMap.

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