Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Making Memory Maps

On Saturday November 10th, the ICH team at the Heritage Foundation put on a Memory Map Workshop facilitated by visual artist Marlene Creates. We had a good turnout with around 20 participants ranging from Memorial University students and faculty to community organization representatives and other people who have an interest in mapping projects.

Marlene first talked about some of her previous mapping work, including an excursion to Labrador to make memory maps with elders, as well as projects which involved asking community members to give awards to special places in their towns. After setting a foundation for how memory maps are made and how they can be useful tools in learning more about a community, she asked the participants to make a map of their own. We all sat down with paper, pencils and pencil crayons to draw a map from memory of a place that we feel closely connected to. One of Marlene's techniques that I found quite useful is to put tracing paper over a foundation map in order to create layers with specific themes. For example, on tracing paper above my memory map, I indicated where all of the vanished buildings once stood in my Mother's hometown. Other layers that I could have chosen to add include green spaces/trees, waterways and footpaths. Doing such layers asks the map maker to think about the space and visualize what it looks like (or looked like in the past) and how it makes use of space. My map, along with all the others made on that day, became a celebration of our special places, both past and present, from very personal perspectives.

Marlene Creates giving a talk on making memory maps.

Workshop participant working on the foundational layer of her memory map. 

Workshop participants working on their personal memory maps. 

A second layer is added to the map using tracing paper and colored pencils. This participant marks off the social spaces of her hometown, with indications of gender and frequency through the size and color of her dots. 

Workshop participant showing the map that she created for the workshop. After this we added a third and final layer which involved writing down information about the places marked off on our maps. We were encouraged to be as creative as we wanted to be!
One of the last things we did together during the workshop was share the contents of our maps with the other participants. It was very interesting to see how diverse the range in topic and style was. Some maps were very traditional with streets and buildings, others with more innovative with only one building and it's associated memories, plants, animals, and other unexpected features showing up. It was clear to us how mapping from memory can be used in many ways for all kinds of different personal and/or community building activities. More documentation and information regarding Marlene Creates' mapping projects can be seen on her website: http://www.marlenecreates.ca/ .

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