Maps are a means to store and communicate location-based data – from physical landscape information to climate data, from popular tourist spots to school data. Maps have also become a very popular format for recording personal memories and subjective impressions (such as in Raul Arias’ collection of literary references in Madrid or Hugleikur Dagson’s crazy “map” of his native Iceland).

Artists like Nigel Peake use map elements as a visual inspiration or create their very own visual mapping language, such as Paula Scher has done in her famous handdrawn maps.

Maps are becoming more of a narrative medium. The task of “mapping” something involves the notion of “sorting things out” and lending a solid frame to an otherwise confusing reality. Even the occupation of a cartographer seems to gain something of a more charming reputation…

Becky Cooper is a young Harvard graduate who started a wonderful collaborative project collecting people’s very personal maps of Manhattan. Equipped with thousands of printed “blank” maps containing nothing but the outline of Manhattan, she went out and asked people on the street to map their memories of the city.

The ever growing collection of these individual accounts of the city’s life can be viewed online. Also, in collaboration with Abrams Books, Becky has published a nice collection of 75 maps in a book: Mapping Manhattan. A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in 75 Maps by New Yorkers.

The beautiful book comes in a long vertical format following the long shape of Manhattan, and along with the 75 individual maps it contains stories of how Becky wandered through Manhattan and what people told her when she asked for the map.

See here how Becky went about asking people. The book is great both for map lovers and for Manhattan lovers. It’s also got brilliant illustrations of street scenes and some of the people Becky met on her “journey”. Great project!

One thought on “Review: Mapping Manhattan

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