Maps and Mapping: PechaKucha Vol. 2

 June 13, 2016
Posted by ryoung

On the Land Programs Consultant Jess Dunkin gives an overview of the NWTRPA’s second PechaKucha on Maps and Mapping.

IMG_5775In late May, the NWT Recreation and Parks Association (NWTRPA) and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC) co-hosted the second of four PechaKucha Nights slated to happen in Yellowknife this year. The theme of this evening was Maps and Mapping, a topic which clearly resonated with Yellowknifers, as once again we had to add seats at the last minute! You can read about the first PechaKucha here.

Maps are more than tools for navigation. They are also rich historical and cultural objects that tell us something about how we see the world. This makes them ripe for analysis and reflection, a fact that was amply demonstrated by the evening’s six presenters.

MC Mike Mitchell introducing the evening (Photo: NWTRPA)

MC Mike Mitchell introducing the evening (Photo: NWTRPA)

The PechaKucha opened with a funny and thoughtful introduction by the snappily dressed MC for the evening Mike Mitchell. With a hand full of well-worn maps from his travels in British Columbia, South America, and the NWT, Mike demonstrated how maps remind us of journeys taken, people encountered, and experiences had.

The first presenter was Yellowknife-based photographer Fran Hurcomb, who spent her 6 minutes and 40 seconds “unrolling” what might be the country’s longest map: a 128-foot long map of the Dehcho (Mackenzie River). After explaining how the map was used by boat captains navigating Canada’s longest river, we journeyed with Fran, her partner Dave, and their daughter from Hay River to Inuvik. This trip formed the basis for an exhibition at the museum a few years ago that linked archival photographs and her own images to points on the map.

(Photo: Fran Hurcomb)

(Photo: Fran Hurcomb)

The second presentation, which was delivered by Steve Schwarz, transported those gathered at the museum, from the NWT’s waterways to the skyways. Steve, a remote sensing analyst with the GNWT, demonstrated how satellite images and aerial photographs can help us to map, monitor, and better understand landscape change from forest fires in the Tłı̨chǫ to shoreline erosion on the Arctic Coast to slumps in the Gwich’in Settlement Area.

Steve was followed by Rajiv Rawat, a mapmaker and media/tech specialist at the PWNHC with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the fantasy genre. Rajiv wowed the audience with his engaging analysis of maps and representations of the North in fantasy literature, films, and television shows.

From the fourth presenter, Ingrid Kritsch, Research Director of the Gwich’in Tribal Council Department of Cultural Heritage (formerly the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute), we learned the story behind the Gwich’in Place Names project. Since 1992, the GTC has worked with elders and knowledge holders to gather information about named places in the Gwich’in Settlement Region. This information has formed the backbone of the Gwich’in Place Names Digital Atlas and a series of place-name maps produced by the GTC.

Simon Whitehouse with the Rand McNally Geo-Physical Globe (Photo: Simon Whitehouse)

Simon Whitehouse with the Rand McNally Geo-Physical Globe (Photo: Simon Whitehouse)

Next, local journalist Simon Whitehouse reported on research he conducted while a graduate student into the history of the Rand McNally Geo-Physical Earth Globes. Long before the crew of Apollo 8 photographed the earth from space, these large globes (they measured six feet in diameter and weighed more than 400lbs!) allowed Americans to see a realistic interpretation of the world they inhabited. Simon also demonstrated how the globes captured advancements in various postwar sciences including geology, cartography, ecology, and space science.

The evening’s final presenter was Tom Andrews. Before he accepted a position as an archaeologist with the GNWT, Tom worked for the Dene Nation on the Dene Mapping Project, a traditional land use and occupancy survey of Denendeh. The project team worked with 600 Dene and Metis trappers to document their land use on large maps. What is less well-know about the project is the long and tedious process of computerizing the information gathered during the many interviews, something that become abundantly clear during after Tom’s presentation. The Mapping Project has inspired and furnished data for other regional mapping project including the Sahtu Atlas and the aforementioned Gwich’in Place Names Atlas.

Pop-up exhibit on maps and mapping (Photo: NWTRPA)

Pop-up exhibit on maps and mapping (Photo: NWTRPA)

In addition to the six presentations, the night featured a pop-up exhibit about maps and mapping that included a map roller used on board the CCGS Tembah, panels from the Gwich’in Place Names project, Bonnie Fournier’s art maps, and information about a mapping project graduate student Amanda DeGray is undertaking with the Yellowkives Dene.

Bonnie Fournier with her art maps (Photo: NWTRPA)

Bonnie Fournier with her art maps (Photo: NWTRPA)

Arctic Tern furnished the presenters their maps as thanks for all of their hardwork.

If you missed the event, some of the presentations are available here.