In an earlier post I talked about my upcoming independent project and how I hoped to work with GIS. I knew that I wanted to use the Itinerary Through Wales, which had also been the main topic of my podcast. However, I was struggling to come up with a clear purpose or method. Mapping the stories that I discussed in my podcast seemed logical, but I did not want my map to be a simple visual reiteration of the podcast. I decided to use Esri Story Maps and create a map that would tell the stories from the Itinerary and locate them on a map. Story Maps were the ideal software for this project because they allow a map, large sections of text, and images to appear alongside each other. Unlike my podcast (the goal of which was to analyse and explain these stories), the point of my map is purely to entertain; I know that medieval history is very niche, and I know that medieval Welsh literature is VERY niche, and all I want to do here is tell these stories in a manner entertaining enough to hopefully pique someone’s interest in the subject.
Although my map is coming along well and I do think this will be a successful project, I had a few issues with both the Story Maps software and with the material I chose to map. Here are a few:
- The Welsh language has changed in the past thousand years (SURPRISE) and the places that Gerald names as the settings for the stories have different spellings now and were tricky to find.
- These little stories are all unrelated and I’m not sure I’ll be able to unite them into a cohesive narrative.
- There are too many churches in Wales named after Saint David.
- I struggled with the aesthetics and design. I wanted the colour scheme to resemble the medieval maps of Britain by Matthew Paris, but Story Maps doesn’t allow for much customization and I had to use an external editing program.
- It is impossible to change the size of inset photographs.
- Cameras did not exist in the 12th century (SURPRISE) and there are next to no photos of the places I mapped. Most of the buildings no longer survive and I had to use pictures of ruins or modern reconstructions.
- The Itinerary is not an illustrated work. I wanted to include illustrations of the stories. I cannot draw to save my life. Shout-out to my best chum @lauvande for providing me with some top-notch drawings to supplement the stories.
- I went through a mild existential crisis consisting of
- “Story Maps is capable of so many impressive things like georeferencing/swipe and spyglass comparisons/video inlays and I’m doing the most basic thing possible”
- “WILL ANYONE ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT THIS”
In the end, I’m quite proud of my map. It still needs a bit of work before I can say it’s done, but my classmates seemed to think it was entertaining and that’s all that matters. I’ll try to get a link to it posted here when it’s all perfect and pretty.