Terrastories: mapping indigenous oral histories

Terrastories is a geostorytelling application built to enable local communities to locate and map their own oral storytelling traditions about places of significant meaning or value to them. Community members can add places and stories through a user-friendly interface, and make decisions about designating certain stories as private or restricted. Built with the Mapbox platform, Terrastories works both online and offline, so that remote communities can access the application entirely without needing internet connectivity.

The main Terrastories interface consists of an interactive map and a sidebar with media content. Users can explore the map and click on activated points to see the stories associated with those points. Alternatively, users can interact with the sidebar and click on stories to see where in the landscape these narratives took place.

Through an administrative back end, users can also add, edit, and remove stories, or set them as restricted so that they are watchable only with a special login. Users can design and customize the content of the interactive map entirely, and the interface itself is customizable with a color scheme and design reflecting the style of the community.

Mapping indigenous oral histories: The project to develop this application was initiated by the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), an organization which partners with indigenous and other traditional communities in the Amazon rainforest to help them protect their ancestral lands and maintain their traditional culture. In 2017, ACT realized the need to develop a custom interactive mapping application designed for mapping partner communities' place-based oral histories, which are at risk of disappearing.

The Terrastories application is part of a broader methodology on working with non-Western communities to document, map, and record their place-based oral histories.