Mapping as Storytelling

I have always loved maps. I remember being a young girl, maybe eight or nine years old, and following along a road map on long road trips with my father. I remember loving the challenge of locating markers on the map, like a river or a bridge, and then seeing it in reality. I love the stories that maps tell, and the recognition that we are always somewhere. We exist in relation to the land under our feet, and this relationship is symbiotic. We change based on the place and space where we are, and place changes based on who is taking up space.

On that note, I’d like to share some of my favourite maps that I’ve discovered lately. The first ones are Toronto-centred, and each one tells a unique story through the map, about this city I love and am constantly learning about:

-The Harbourfront 9 Rivers Project tells a story of the rivers that feed into Toronto, giving life to the urban life we live. I have always been drawn to water, and I choose to live within walking distance to our lake, which anchors me. In such a big city, we can easily forget about the natural world, and this map helps me to remember.

-This is an amazing map that tells the historical story of immigration in Toronto. You can actually pinpoint a specific neighborhood area within Toronto and then move the timeline marker to see who was immigrating to that area at the specific time.

-This historical mapping project is my favourite! They have scanned in Toronto maps from different 1818 till now, from UofT Archives, Toronto Public Library, Archives of Canada etc, so you can move the timeline marker to see a specific neighborhood at a specific year in history. From this, I can see that my specific street didn’t exist at all until around 1913. I love the actual maps, the drawing and the historical feel to this site.

 There are also some fascinating world maps, that tell interesting stories – check out this site. My favourite maps on this site are the maps comparing countries where people have highest versus lowest emotions and feel the most/least loved. Who knew that people in the Philipines are #1 in feeling the most amount of love and emotions? I also found the global map of smoking rates around the world quite fascinating, which shows that Russia has by far the highest smoking rate and Ethiopia has one of the lowest. What I find interesting about this map, is that this is one of the only health factors that I can identify where poorer countries fare better (smoke less) than richer countries. I hadn’t thought about that until I saw this map – on a global scale, smoking is a disease of the rich.  

I’ll leave you on a lighter note, with some sillier maps here. Some of these maps are downright silly, but I do personally love the mapping of the 7 Deadly Sins onto the American map. It reminds me of the hilarious book by Dan Savage – “Skipping Towards Gomorrah”, which is a great read, exploring the 7 deadly sins in America. 

Mapping is a form of visual story telling, from the central lens of place and space. I hope you’ve enjoyed these maps and the stories they tell. 



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