About the Knight Lab’s tools

Northwestern University’s Knight Lab is a community of developers, students, designers and educators working on digital experiments designed to push journalism, and the digital humanities, into new spaces. Knight Lab allows for a collaborative environment for interdisciplinary exploration and conversation, where students and professionals can learn from one another.

The Lab is known for their development of digital, lightweight and open-source  tools for showcasing humanities work, including: TimelineJS, used by more than 250,000 people to tell stories; StoryMapJS, a user friendly authoring storytelling tool; JuxtaposeJS, for comparing similar pieces of media; SoundCiteJS, a tool for adding inline audio to your storytelling project; and SceneVR, which uses innovative technology for making virtual reality-ready photos and unique 360° narratives.

Through this workshop, participants will learn more about the TimelineJS and the StoryMapJS open-source tools. These tools are compatible with Scalar, and you will learn how to use them separately, and in conjunction with Scalar. To learn more about Timeline JS and StoryMapsJS, please read below.


TimelineJS is a journalistic and digital humanities tool that helps to visualize relationships between stories, events and involving actors. The CSiW Scalar team’s use of TimelineJS showcases relevant events, including developments in international law, acvitism, and advocacy, that emerged through our research. Zhi Ming Sim, the lead for the Community Dialogues TimelineJS, developed the Timeline to present the milestones of advocacy that have been foundational to movements for justice and reparations for survivors of conjugal slavery in war. The Timeline includes the founding of CSiW, the work of Evelyn Amony and Grace Acan, and other survivors and affected communities of conjugal slavery in conflict. With TimelineJS as a means of presentation, Sim entrenches the Ododo Wa: Stories of Girls in War exhibit and its associated events into the global community and judiciary efforts towards addressing the needs of conjugal slavery survivors.

TimelineJS makes a flexible and complementary tool capable of hosting sources from a variety of platforms: Canva, Dropbox, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube Vimeo, Google Maps, and more – supporting Sim’s visual presentation of the CSiW Scalar Team’s documentation of the Ododo Wa Traveling Exhibit, media engagements with Acan and Amony and reflections of participants, affected communities and growing solidarities for survivors.


The StoryMapJS tool is a free, open-source tool that helps users tell stories on the web that highlight the locations of the series of events in your story. This new, but stable, tool has friendly authoring capabilities and allows users to pull in media from a variety of sources, including but not limited to: Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, Vimeo, GoogleMaps and more.

Due to its storytelling capabilities, StoryMapJS allows users to create and tell stories in different ways. By using Maps, users can add a slide for each place or location in their story, change the visual style of their map, or create a Mapbox to create their own style. Alternatively, users can use large photographs, images, works of arts, historic maps, among others (dubbed, “gigapixels” by the Lab), to facilitate the storytelling process.

From the outset, Sarah York-Bertram and CSiW project coordinator Véronique Bourget agreed a map of the traveling exhibit’s journeys would be suitable and complimentary to the traveling exhibit and its events. While reviewing Scalar platforms at the DSC with Kris Joseph and Anna St. Onge, York-Bertram spotted a StoryMapJS featured on a page about historical shipping routes. Seeing the third-party application in the platform gave York-Bertram the idea to develop a StoryMapJS to track traveling exhibit events. The platform enabled standalone development which could demonstrate the journey of the exhibit inside and outside the Scalar platform. The traveling exhibit StoryMapJS is free and simple to use. It also offered utility for visualizing the goals of the traveling exhibit in discussions with project partners.

The lightweight, interactive platform was especially useful in the Scalar team’s collaborative work with Grace Acan and Evelyn Amony, CMHR exhibit curator Isabelle Masson, and with the Refugee Law Project in Uganda. Through Zoom meetings, calls and messages on WhatsApp, and exchanges via Email, the map became an important source of discussion about the distinct lessons of each event, digital methods and storytelling, and it offered space for collaboration and critique.


CSiW 2021 workshops Copyright © 2021 by Sarah York-Bertram, Zhi Ming Sim, and Andrea Gonzalez. All Rights Reserved.

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