How the Cartographers Made the Map

Cartographers’ Voices:

“We envisioned a map that would depict Champlain’s travels with greater depth, resituating him in the human landscape with all the complexity that this concept implies, and we sought to achieve this by focusing on narrative. Mapping with narrative allows us to reimagine historical cartography for the representation of place rather than space. Mapping with narrative fosters the inclusion of multiple voices, multiple perspectives, and a depth of emotional experience commonly missing from conventional cartographic design.” MWPearce and MJHermann

We began by creating a large hydrographic base map, about five feet long, and began to read Champlain’s journals.

As we read, we marked the locations of places he named, his geographic observations and other stories about place.

Two weeks later, we headed for the Gaspe Peninsula to begin driving the map.

We moved through the map as Champlain did, journeying to and through places in the same order, not one place after another, but one place because of another.

Tea with Champlain.
Margaret continues her research while tea water heats up on the camp stove.

In about three weeks (and 3200 miles) we covered all of Champlain’s travels (except for his journeys down the Richelieu River to Lake Champlain), reading his stories, standing where he stood, and looking at the landscape today.

“We ask so little of maps today. Maps are expected only to summarize and simplify events for easy consumption by the reader. In this map, we summarize while retaining depth, we simplify while retaining voice, and we provide the reader with a new way to visualize place. Through the sequential panels, with supporting stories cached throughout the map, readers are encouraged to enter and exit as they wish; to revisit sections in any linear, or non-linear, fashion they choose, discover new connections, and build their own mental map.

In designing this map we disrupted conventional notions of what the historical map should look like. In so doing, we also disrupted conventional notions of what the reader needs in order to interpret, and learn from, historical cartography”.

MWPearce and MJHermann

of places he named, his geographic
and other stories about place.