A few weeks ago, Bucknell hosted Kansas State University geographer/cartographer Margaret Pearce for a presentation on map visualization and cartographic design. Dr. Pearce is a geographer who works on cartographic representation of cultural and historical geographies, especially Indigenous geographies. Much of her presentation focused on communication between the cartographer and the map reader – particularly on the need for an active/engaged map reader.
Pearce mentioned that she has had people compliment her on her maps by saying that they really had to “sit down” with the map to read and understand it. As Pearce put it, you probably wouldn’t compliment the author of an article or book that way…. yet often times maps get only a passing glance instead of a full, attentive reading. During her presentation, Pearce walked the audience through a careful reading of “They Would Not Take Me There” – a map that she made with co-collaborator Michael Hermann to illustrate the travels of Samuel de Champlain as he explored Canada between 1603 and 1616. She discussed her use of Native place names, quotes from Champlain’s travel journals, historic fonts and cartographic techniques in shaping the map into a narrative in its own right – one that is a starting point for a discussion rather than a mere summary of Champlain’s travels through Canada.
From Pearce and Hermann’s introduction to the map on the University of Maine’s Canadian-American Center website:
At one level, Champlain’s explorations have been extensively documented and mapped by scholars focusing on the locations and dates of Champlain’s arrivals and departures. But these maps are silent with regard to the Indigenous geographies through which Champlain moved and upon which he relied for the success of his own explorations and mappings. Also, they fail to convey the human experiences which shape the emotional geographies of his journals.
From an article on the map that was published in Cartographic Perspectives, Number 66, Fall 2010:
The project began with a single map of the hydrography from the Gaspe Peninsula to the Georgian Bay, which was the extent of Champlain’s exploration of Canada along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. But the cartographic challenge evolved into more than mapping Champlain’s exploration routes; the mapping of his experience became both the design question and quest. Champlain’s own travel narrative
became the primary design element, with his words placed among the geography he described. These quotes were selected to bring the reader into the landscape of the map, including, but not limited to, observations of the physical landscape. His interactions and conflicts with Natives and Europeans also were stories that needed to be mapped. This concept of mapping stories and interactions became the primary focus.
An example of the use of Native place names and historic fonts:
An image of the full map – no full-size digital file available (but soon I’ll have one in my office if you want to see it):
Diagram presenting one way to group information and read the map for the first time: