Cartographic Memory

Oh you’ve moved to London? Do you have an A-Z? A city and it’s map is a match made in heaven. There’s something about London that just screams out for a map, and not just the ease of getting lost on some of it’s Mediaeval streets. (I was going to say street plan, but that seems a bit generous.)

At the Museum of London, a fantastic museum for tourists and Londoners alike, there’s an area where the walls are literally covered with maps and it can cause a bit of a bottle neck. You can see that where your flat is used to be a field and that the roads are still the same hundreds of years ago in places. Or the spelling as changed. Or there used to be an airport near Waterloo Station?

The old tube maps are also fascinating. The Bakerloo line was much bigger for instance, and the old line kind of explains its current, rather odd path.

In terms of maps in general (with a US focus) there is a rather good collection of articles here on Brain Pickings. In terms of maps of London, there is a huge array here at

Aside from providing an outlet for those obsessed with their city, maps are seriously beautiful designs and objects. They range from visually simply functional to extravagant and gorgeous. They can also be very topical such as this map of tweets in London.

Maps are also illustrated memories and histories. Traditionally, political or trade histories, but they can also be personal histories. A scribbled-on old A-Z for instance, or the book of a Carolinian neighbourhood in Everything Sings. The originator of the carved pumpkins map.

What’s with all the maps? Well, I’m still working on my map project, which plans in store for a second for the next OpenDoors. More to come.


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