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Introducing Library of Congress Story Maps!

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The Library of Congress staff is excited to launch Story Maps, interactive and immersive web applications that tell the incredible stories of the Library’s collections!

Story Maps, created within a Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based software platform created by Esri, combine text, images, multimedia, and interactive maps to create engaging online narrative experiences. Under a program spearheaded by the Geography and Map Division, collection specialists from across the Library have produced Story Maps with content from the hidden and not-so-hidden collections of the library. We are pleased to showcase the first three published Story Maps from this program, with many more to come!

You can find all Library of Congress Story Maps at

Surveying the South
Kristi Finefield, Prints & Photographs Division

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) is often considered the first American woman to achieve national prominence in diverse areas of photography, from portraiture and photojournalism to documentary work. Beginning in the late 1920s, Johnston embarked upon what would later be known as the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South, an ambitious photography tour of the American South, taking more than 7,000 photographs of buildings and gardens in both urban and rural settings.

Quote from Frances Benjamin Johnston over photo of crumbling building.
Screenshot of excerpt from “Surveying the South” Story Map by Kristi Finefield, Prints and Photographs Division, 2018. Photo is “Belle Grove, rear, White Castle vic., Iberville Parish, Louisiana” by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1938. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Kristi Finefield, reference librarian in the Prints & Photographs Division, tells Johnston’s story, beginning with the roots of the Carnegie Survey in Johnston’s photographs of the majestic Chatham estate outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia (along with the hand-painted glass lantern slides of her photos there). Johnston’s vibrant photos take center stage, with dozens of examples of her work on display, documenting different building types, from farmhouses to churches, as well as specific interior and exterior features such as balconies, brickwork, and fireplaces, with an interactive map showing the locations of the more than 7,000 photographs in the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South, allowing users to explore this incredible collection geographically.

Screenshot of web map of photo locations in Mid-Atlantic with Richmond selected and pop-up window visible.
Screenshot of interactive map from “Surveying the South” Story Map by Kristi Finefield, Prints and Photographs Division, 2018.

Stephanie Stillo, Rare Books & Special Collections Division

It is difficult to overstate the impact of Johannes Gutenberg’s world-changing 1455 invention: the printing press. This new technology of “artificial writing” spread across Europe and generated a massive boom in printing productivity, with 10 million books produced in the second half of the 15th century. Calling attention to this early moment in the history of the printed codex, historians refer to books printed between 1455 and 1501 as “incunabula,” Latin for “in the cradle.” From biblical texts and fables to natural histories and illustrated epics, the publications of this time period, besides being visually stunning, reached a wide audience, covering topics of religion, science, culture, commerce, and more.

Quote on block book market over image from The Apocalypse of St. John
Excerpt from “Incunabula” Story Map by Stephanie Stillo, Rare Books and Special Collections Division, 2018. Image of “Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis,” c.1470, pg. 16. Rare Books and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.

Stephanie Stillo, Curator of the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection in the Rare Books & Special Collections Division, explores the Library of Congress’ collection of incunabula in her Story Map, beginning with an interactive map of major incunabula publishing cities across Europe. In covering early printing methods in China and Europe, as well as pre-1450 European manuscripts, Stillo sets the stage for the publishing boom kicked off by Gutenberg and his printed Bible. Stillo dives into xylographic printing, coloring and binding, with a particular focus on Apocalypsis Sancti Johannis, one of the most popular block books of the era. The Story Map also showcases beautiful incunabula published in, what is today, Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and England.

Map of incunabula publishing sites in Europe denoted by red circles proportionally sized by number of incunabula published.
Screenshot of interactive map from “Incunabula” Story Map by Stephanie Stillo, Rare Books and Special Collections Division, 2018.

Behind Barbed Wire
Heather Thomas and Chris Ehrman, Serial & Government Publications Division

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and until the end of World War II, nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and forcibly relocated to assembly centers and internment camps, mostly across the American West. Triggered by Executive Order 9066, which claimed this forced relocation was in the interest of national security during wartime, this massive relocation brought Japanese American families to desolate camp sites, from Manzanar at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Granada on the eastern Colorado plains and Rowher in rural Arkansas. Living under harsh conditions and largely isolated from the outside world, interned Japanese Americans documented their experiences of life in the internment camps through newspapers. The Library of Congress’ collection of internment camp newspapers includes 4,600 English and Japanese language issues published in 13 camps.

Quote about sports in Japanese-American interment camps with photograph of baseball game.
Excerpt from “Behind Barbed Wire” Story Map by Heather Thomas and Chris Ehrman, Serials and Government Publications Division. Photo is “Baseball game, Manzanar Relocation Center, Calif” by Ansel Adams, 1943. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Heather Thomas and Chris Ehrman, reference librarian and digital conversion specialist, respectively, in the Serial & Government Publications Division, explore these Japanese-American camp newspapers that serve to “chronicle the stories and experiences of their community in a time of crisis.” Four interactive maps convey the vast scale of the Japanese American internment and provide a point of entry for exploring the newspaper collection. As described in the Story Map, the newspapers covered camp sporting events, advertised religious and school events, recorded vital statistics (like births and deaths in the camps), and even featured comic strips and editorial cartoons. High-resolution scans of the newspapers themselves are accompanied by dozens of photographs by renowned American photographer Ansel Adams, who documented scenes of daily life inside the Manzanar War Relocation Center in 1943. Altogether, the newspapers showcase the resiliency of the interned Japanese American community during World War II, trying to carry on some semblance of “normal” life in the midst of difficult, unjust circumstances.

Screenshot of web map showing newspaper publication sites with pop-up window open for Manzanar Free Press.
Screenshot of interactive map from “Behind Barbed Wire” Story Map by Heather Thomas and Chris Ehrman, Prints and Photographs Division, 2018.

Stay tuned for more Library of Congress Story Maps to come!

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