Imagination (1921) by N. C. Wyeth

The Story of HistoryMaps


nce upon a time... or at least when I was growing up, I loved reading stories from picture books at the local library. Much of that same sense of wonderment still remains with me today. I'm still fascinated about stories that happened a long, long time ago from lands far, far away. So, when I decided to study History again, I wanted to create something to help me. This was how HistoryMaps started.

Learning History involves remembering dates, places, people, and events (the who, what, where and when of something). And remembering things for the sake of remembering is not very fun, atleast not for me. I thought there must be an easier and better way to learn and retain what I've learned...and make the whole damn thing fun! That was the challenge. So, I started by creating a simple website with a timeline of events. Then I thought, "Why don't I include some maps?" and "Wouldn't it be cool if the maps were interactive?". When you show a map or a timeline, you know where things fit, both in time and place. Visual learning is intuitive, retentive and engaging. That was the key! But there was one other element missing: the stories had to be engaging. "What if I add images?" just like in those picture books I read as a kid. After that, inspirations from childhood (museum visits, movies, the beauty of printed books, etc.) flooded in. Much of these ideas became experiments and after a few hundred code pushes later, we have the site as it is now.

A candle loses nothing of its light by lighting another candle. - Sufi proverb

Every time I create a HistoryMap, I learn so much (from a baseline of knowing nothing about that subject). What's also amazing is connecting the dots between stories: you see the connections! I accomplished my goal of creating a tool to help me study history. "But maybe the site can help other people too." I made a new goal: to make the site accessible to as many people as possible. To this end, I translated the content to 7 other languages (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, and Chinese). I picked the languages which I thought had the most reach (and I plan to add more languages in the future). It's my intention to keep the site cost-free, registration-free, and, hopefully, ad-free!

Lastly, the site is in a constant state of flux. New features are tested. New forms of content are tried. Content is continually added and improved. I want HistoryMaps to be the best brand about History. And I have a lot more plans, ideas, and experiments in store. Oh yeah, because I love puzzles and secret things, I hid a lot of the features on the site! Can you find some of them? 😉

Nono Umasy

Founder of HistoryMaps