WorldMap, developed by the Center for Geographic Analysis (CGA) at Harvard, is a web-based platform to enable scholars to work with geospatial information.

Intended to fill a niche between big GIS applications and lightweight map interfaces, WorldMap can be used as a tool to visualize, edit, collaborate, and publish maps. When publishing a map, you can provide an abstract and other relevant information, making this a particularly apt scholarly tool. Additionally, you can choose to publish the map for the public, or share it only with a few collaborators.

With WorldMap, you can also work with large datasets, overlay them with thousands of other layers, export data, link maps to rich media content, and georeference paper maps online via WorldMap WARP.

WorldMap is an open-source platform with full source code available here. The developers are interested in engaging with users of the tool and in expanding on its functionality.

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Exhibit: Data-Rich Interactive Webpages

Exhibit is an open-source software implemented through JavaScript that you can include in your webpage. This can be integrated into whatever CMS you are using and works entirely on the client browser.

This free tool lets you easily create an interactive webpage with interactive maps and timelines, text search and filtering, and the possibility to create additional visualizations. Because of its ability to integrate geospatial and temporal mapping, Exhibit would be a great choice for historians.

There is a full tutorial available here, and the source code is available on GitHub.

The screenshot below is from a US Presidents example, available here.

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Timeline is a widget that you can use on the web to visualize temporal data. It does not take too much room on the page, but scrolls back and forth. Users can also click on points on the timeline to show a popup with more information. This is free, open-source software with the full source code available here. Although this requires some knowledge of web development, there is a Getting Started guide on their wiki here, that will walk you through the process. Learn more about this project and play with the interactive timeline on the Timeline website.

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In addition to Mapbox StudioMapbox also offers TileMill for building interactive maps. They provide a crash course to get you up and running with the documentation used. If you have familiarity with CSS, this will be a natural tool for you, as you look at an editor and at the graphic representation of your map at the same time. This tool was built on a suite of open source libraries including Mapnik, node.js, backbone.js, express and CodeMirror, and you can look at the source code on GitHub.

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OpenStreetMap is an open-source alternative to Google Maps, providing similar information culled from the user base. It has a few layer options and is aesthetically designed. Working with OpenStreetMap to create your own maps requires some more technical abilities than Google Maps does, but you can read up about contributing to the project, and how to work with the available GIS data on OpenStreetMap Wiki. Mapbox provides a short tutorial for using OpenStreetMap, and you can also use PostGIS to work with OpenStreetMap’s available databases.

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Mapping Gothic France

The Mapping Gothic France site is an Art History project spearheaded by professors at Columbia University and Vassar College. It is a highly interactive site that combines various modes of approaching the topic of Gothic French architecture through space, time, and narrative.

Their About page describes their goals:

Our intention has been not just to develop a more appropriate way of representing the spaciousness of individual monuments, but to provide the user of the site with new ways to understand the relationship of hundreds of buildings conventionally described as “Gothic” — in terms of sameness and difference, found in the forms of multiple buildings within a defined period of time and space that corresponds to the advent of the nation of France.

As an open-source project with their source-code available via GitHub, Mapping Gothic France can be a great inspiration for those of us working with maps across various dimensions.



CartoDB is a cloud tool for mapping and visualization on the web. Users can use the company’s free platform (that is, up to a certain size), or deploy their own instance as the software is open source (check them out on GitHub). This tool is appropriate for users at various technological proficiencies, as there is a web application with interface to create custom maps and visualizations, while advanced users can access an interface to use SQL.

There is a Maps API, SQL API, Import API, and CartoDB.js library.

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Mapbox allows users to pull from a dozen basemap designs ranging from terrain to more creative historical- and comic-themed designs. The Mapbox Studio design tool is open source and you can look at the map and the coding side-by-side so that you can see exactly how each of your coded changes look in real time.

Mapbox is free to use, but if you want a large number of map views, data storage, and custom styles, there are pay-for-use plans available for upgrading.

The Mapbox showcase highlights projects undertaken by organizations ranging from Pinterest to National Geographic to Etsy that rely on the Mapbox framework.

Guides are available to walk users through making a map with Mapbox Editor as well as more detailed guides on how the Mapbox framework operates.



Neatline allows users to build maps with a temporal element for complex maps, image annotations, and narrative sequences. This tool can be used for archival and cultural heritage work, either imported from an existing collection, or users can create a new digital archive themselves.

Neatline is a suite of plugins for the open-source Omeka framework, and as designed by the Scholars’ Lab.

Have a look at samples here.

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