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Celebrating 50 Years of Zip Codes through Story Maps

In July, the zipcode turned 50. Originally designed to improve the efficiency of mail delivery, the zipcode has grown to define communities, locations and for many American’s, serves as a source of pride. As I was reviewing an article on NPR, I was reminded of three zipcodes I always will remember -

  • 13088: Liverpool, NY - where I grew up.

  • 13210: Habitat for Humanity - Syracuse, NY - sent countless letters to homeowners/prospective donors. My first real job, and I loved my time there.

  • 13206: My grandparents home in the Eastwood neighborhood in Syracuse. Every Saturday night growing up we had dinner there, my grandfather always quizzed me on their phone number and address. (Oddly, their phone number was a palindrome).

There’s something to zip codes and how we associate to location. That’s why I was excited to see an Esri Story Map that helped visual some of the most historic zip codes. (No, none of mine made the list- but that inspired me to create my own Story Map. More to come).

The list was generated from the NPR article: The ZIP Code Turns 50 Today; Here Are 9 That Stand Out. Using Esri GIS software, the zipcodes were then mapped using Esri Story Maps, you can explore the map here, Celebrating 50 Years of the ZIP Code: Tour nine interesting ZIP codes from around the country.

The Story Maps website (http://storymaps.esri.com/home/) states “[Story Maps] combine intelligent web maps with web applications and templates that incorporate text, multimedia, and interactive functions. Story maps inform, educate, entertain, and inspire people about a wide variety of topics.” With Story Maps, anyone can build, create, or modify a map to tell a compelling story. Maps have been used to create stories around visiting the National Mall, the sinking of the Titanic, and dozens of other important events. Esri has many Story Maps available, here are some of my favorites:

What I love about Story Maps is that they take deeply complex information and create simple, elegant maps. Often, we see the end product, a simple, easy to read map - but there is truly an art in simplicity in creating simple, elegant and informative maps. There’s complex coding, authoritative data, defining attributes, and many other components that make a great map. So, don’t be deceived by the simplicity of the end product.

If you’re interested in learning more about GIS, check out my recap on some of the GovLoop resources we have created this year with Esri: Your GIS Research Hub: 10 GovLoop Resources.

When Esri was founded in 1969, it realized even then that geographic information system (GIS) technology could make a difference in society. GIS helps people to solve problems at local, regional, national, and global scales. Access maps and apps at ArcGIS.com. Be sure to check out all the GIS resources produced by Esri and GovLoop.

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