The Assignment:

For this assignment we broke into groups to investigate one of the following sites of environmental trauma or intervention: the Aral Sea, Belomor canal, Khimki forest, and Novaya Zemlya. Each of these is a site in which the relationship between the ‘natural’ and human-made worlds tells a unique or compelling story (or an array of unique or compelling stories). We used Neatline to build deep maps that draw on a range of textual and visual sources in order to reveal the “grain and patina” of these sites. 

To see the assignment guidelines, click here.

Just what is a deep map? Here are 4 answers.

  1. "A deep map allows one to dig deep into a place by uncovering its history, arts, ecology, issues, and people, as if it were a container of wisdom with no bottom. As William Least Heat-Moon described, 'It is an acknowledgement of the vastness of a mind's capacity for knowledge about a place.'" (PrairyErth: A Deep Map, Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1991.)
  2. According to geographer Trevor Harris, a deep map is "a spatially and temporally scaled, contingent, semantically rich, open-ended, integrative, multi-medic, representation that portrays the material, immaterial, and human world (and the meaning of life)."
  3. To put it another way, a deep map attempts to "represent a palimpsest of the ideas, images, and descriptions" of a particular site. (Penn Libraries exhibit notes)
  4. How about this: "Reflecting eighteenth century antiquarian approaches to place, which included history, folklore, natural history and hearsay, the deep map attempts to record and represent the grain and patina of place through juxtapositions and interpenetrations of the historical and the contemporary, the political and the poetic, the discursive and the sensual; the conflation of oral testimony, anthology, memoir, biography, natural history and everything you might ever want to say about a place …" (Mike Pearson and Michael Shanks, Theatre/Archaeology (Routledge 2001) page 64-65)

The best way to wrap your mind around deep mapping is to explore a deep map. Here are the maps we built in an effort to better understand the ways in which a sense of "place" is constructed. Our maps integrate poetry, propaganda, music, film clips, scientific reports, and other historical and contemporary sources. 

 

Neatline map sample

Here is the sort of thing the creators of Neatline produce. (Neatline is the suite of plugins that, by virtue of working in conjuction with Omeka, allowed us to build this site.) Find out more about Neatline.