Posted by: fromonthehill | October 27, 2011

#A history of my world in 100 objects #16

#16, Maps. I told my sixth form group last year that if you cut me I would bleed Geography. They laughed but they understood. Geography & places have been important to me for as long as I can remember. Geography & maps are entwined & I can remember a library book I borrowed when I was perhaps eight or nine that was full of different maps that I loved to look at & copy. I can’t remember when I couldn’t name & find the continents of the world on a globe & certainly taught my son to do the same at an early age. I am horrified when some of the children I teach who are quite widely travelled can’t locate the places they have visited on a map & often say that airports should ask ‘can you point to where you are going on this map?’ before ‘did you pack the bag yourself?’. Maps don’t have to be ‘real’ to be magical. Surely one of Tolkien’s greatest feats was the creation of the maps of Middle Earth? Without them could Lord of the Rings have had its depth of story? The ‘Lone Pine Five’ books I read as a child had maps…of the Long Mynd & the Stipperstones & The Devils Chair. The were part fact & part fiction but enabled me to go I find the places behind the stories.

As a Geography student at university I read a book called ‘Mental Maps’ by Gould & White. It was pioneering stuff back in the late 70’s & explored the notion of the maps we carry in our heads & the psychological forces that help to create them. Ever wondered about the patterns created by, for example, where people sit on a beach, and why they are usually similar? Some of the questions asked by Gould & White make good starters to lessons, questions such as ‘where in Britain would you like to live if you had a free choice & why’. The answers usually mirror the research done by Gould & White over 40 years ago! Favourite holiday destinations, London & Leeds! Although the last group I asked failed to include their home city of Leeds – interesting to wonder why!

The map I have included in the post was drawn by one of my students. Their task was to create or find a map on the theme of ‘impossible places’. The module they are going to study will take them to ‘impossible’ places that people have made ‘possible’ by design & desire to live there. Las Vegas, the skywalk over the Grand Canyon, maybe SouthPole station….! #16, maps!

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