Mapping Reflections

In undertaking this project, I learned a lot about how I relate to the spaces immediately surrounding me. Williamsburg has always been a sort of nebulous region to me, often encompassing swaths of James City and York Counties in a broad sense, and also surprisingly confining in terms of legal boundaries.
By looking at my map, I quickly see that the majority of my day to day movements are confined to the College campus. I hardly think that this will be unique. Our classes, study venues, sources of entertainment, places to eat, and for many, homes are all located within the confines of the College campus. And even though I technically live off campus, my apartment on Scotland Street is so close to school that I can see Blow Hall from my door and I, unfortunately, share a wall with Wawa. I think that this really says something, though—that even a student who lives off-campus is forced to live so close to the school that he’s still within earshot of it. This fact, I believe, speaks to William and Mary’s status as a relatively rural, or at least suburban, school. If we were located in a city, students’ maps, I think, would be much more dispersed. Instead, with a lack of easy transportation, or even much reason to travel long distances, most student maps will look relatively centralized. I think that there’s a reason a campus map was surprisingly convenient, for the most part.
A note should also be made on the circuity of my map. It’s difficult to tell what directions I’m going in on the lines, simply because I travelled on them so frequently. This shows that most of my day depended on revolving around a central location, in this case my house, that when I was travelling in circles, I wasn’t necessarily going places to satisfy a simple, one-time necessity. Places I tend to go to more than once a day include my apartment, the Daily Grind, and Wawa. All of these locales serve as meeting places, hangouts, or convenient places where I can buy, stow, or take things from.
While the majority of my comings and goings took place off-campus, they still remained so close to campus that the map provided the perfect space to show them. My only real trip outside of campus, in fact, the only one I took all day that required a car, was to the home of Rodney Taylor. He lives far down the John Tyler Highway in James City County, near Jamestown. The drive took about fifteen minutes, and I knew that I was definitely outside the bounds of Williamsburg, but I soon realized that in my mind I was still in “Williamsburg.” I figured this out when I was going over the recording from the interview. I introduced Mr. Taylor with something like “This is Andrew Jungclaus. It’s Thursday, April 16, and I’m at the home of Rodney Taylor in Williamsburg, Virginia.” Mr. Taylor lived most of his life on Jamestown Island, and lives closer to it than to Williamsburg today. But still, he didn’t even correct me. I suppose this is because the concept of “Williamsburg” has become such a pervasive one that even locals feel comfortable lumping the surrounding counties under the name of a single, familiar space.
While digesting all of this, I’ve had a hard time reconciling such a broad “Williamsburg” with my previous conceptions of space. After growing up in a small suburb of Philadelphia, I couldn’t imagine how this type of experiment would have ended. Even though I left campus a few times on Thursday, it never occurred to me that I left “Williamsburg.” Now, if I had had a similar day in New Jersey, making movements of similar distances, I would have had to have travelled through several distinct townships, each with their own identities and cultures.
I don’t want to say that I consider all of the surrounding communities in James City and York Counties one with Williamsburg, that they completely dependent upon the “city” and don’t really exist outside of it. But I do think that with this rural county-city system that I haven’t seen anywhere but in Virginia, outlying counties to lend themselves to assumption by greater cities. One of our interview subjects, the Bradshaws, indignantly told me that they were residents of Norge, of James City County, and definitely not from Williamsburg. They took pride in their community and refused to see it lost in the commercialism of Williamsburg. But aside from them, it’s been my experience in Virginia that residents of counties are more than happy to associate themselves with the cities.
One rarely hears people say that they are from Albemarle, Fairfax, or James City Counties. Perhaps it’s convenience of recognition, or perhaps it’s a vestige of a more rural society. But in my own mapping and interviewing experience, I’ve found that there are fewer strict borders, fewer fiercely independent communities Virginia than in more densely populated states.


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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