Jacob Charron – Map Project Reaction

The process of mapping a typical day in someone’s life, especially my own, was an entirely new concept to me at the onset of this assignment. I am admittedly skeptical about the significance of such a document, but can see how it is an interesting way to present an account of a typical day for a college student in 2009. I do believe, to some extent, that providing a current map of the area and a prose journal entry may be a more effective way to immortalize this information.
Benefits and Drawbacks to Map-Diaries
Based on my own research experience, if I were to seek an account of a typical day in the life of a student in the 1970’s, I would first look for a written document. I would certainly not look first for a map of his or her movements. The benefits of doing that, though, have become a bit clearer to me. The map I created includes very specific times, and I have to believe that preciseness is always appreciated by an historical researcher. Even if it is not extremely important in the context of a project, the knowledge that someone went to dinner at 6:30 instead of “in the evening” or “after work” can be helpful. It simply adds a more specific description of the time that the activity took place. The map also lays out, very clearly, the order in which all of the day’s activities were carried out. These levels of specificity that the map provides can be helpful in some types of research, especially in investigations of certain individuals in specific periods of time.
Several things about the map struck me as problematic, though. First, if the intent is to demonstrate a “typical” day in my life as a college student, the fact that April 16, 2009 was not representative of a typical day for me could be problematic. I spent a lot of time that day meeting with a professor from Georgetown University who was visiting the campus to give a talk. That evening, I joined some music faculty to take him and his wife to dinner at the Blue Talon Bistro. Even though this is a pretty well-known restaurant in Williamsburg, that night is the only time I have gone to the Blue Talon in my four years at William and Mary.
The map-diary is limited in the amount of description it can give about certain activities. It is great for describing chronology and location, but nothing can be learned about the Blue Talon Bistro from the map. All that is made clear is that is a place where I ate dinner on April 16. Viewers of the map would presumably be able to deduce the fact that the Campus Center is home to a dining hall and WCWM, and that the Sadler Center is where students retrieve mail, but they would not learn anything about those places. A more in-depth journal or daily log of activities would most likely provide more description.
The Process
On Thursday, I decided to simply create a log of my activities and times, and transfer them to a map later on. Mapping my movements as they occurred, I believe, would have resulted in a very messy, mostly illegible document. Instead, I created a very detailed log of my activities and movements, and later transferred them to the maps.
When creating the map on the blank sheet of paper, I was at first having trouble deciding how to present it. I tried to create a very precise, drawn-to-scale, map, but that became very difficult. I decided to create a very sparse map, only highlighting the places I went to on April 16. The campus map that I filled in ended up being too complex to clearly present my movements and activities. My lines overlapped and were too small to distinguish from one another in certain places. So, I figured the combination of the two maps would be necessary to get the whole picture accurately. The William and Mary campus map shows a very accurate representation of the geography of the area, while the map I created very accurately describes my movements and activities, while at the same time presenting a clear view of my path throughout the day. I decided that the best way to present the information was to create keys explaining symbols and colors on the map. I marked each significant movement with a different colored line. For each color, I attributed a time at which I made that movement. For every place I was stationary at for a significant period, I ascribed a number. Each number was placed next to the building I was inside of during the time of the activity that the number corresponded with. For example, the number 2 represents the five minutes, between 1:25 and 1:30 pm, that I took inside of the Sadler Center to retrieve my mail.
I also struggled deciding how much annotation I should include. I felt it was important to indicate how I was getting around, so I included a note that informed the reader of the map that all of my movements were walking. I decided to remain fairly broad in the description of my activities. I did not, for example, indicate my movement within large buildings. While inside the Campus Center from 1:40 to 4:00, I moved from the Marketplace dining hall upstairs to the WCWM radio station in the basement, but I felt this would be hard to map.
Overall, the process was enlightening, and though I believe the combination of detailed logs and professional maps might be more useful to researchers in most cases, I discovered some ways that map-diaries can provide information in a unique way. I am now curious to see how long map diaries have been created and it which contexts. I also would like to discover how they have been effectively used by researchers.


About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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