Map Orkney Month starts today and will run for the whole of March. The aim is to create a new map of Orkney based on everyday journeys and places that people map for a day. The idea is my contribution for Public Archaeology 2015, but the map and outcome is very much up to everyone who is participating. Mappers decide their own journeys, and how and what to record as their site. They will be using a basic GPS receiver or their smart phones for the spatial data, and photos, video, drawing, text etc for the rest. The idea is loosely based around an archaeological walkover survey. These are low-tech landscape surveys commonly employed by archaeologists to characterise the cultural heritage resource in a given area by walking, basic GPS mapping, making notes and taking photographs. I’m interested in using the idea of a walkover survey and making it a collaborative and creative exercise, where the outcome is unexpected and perhaps even un-archaeological.
Map Orkney Month is a month long walkover survey with a difference: one that does not necessarily deal with archaeology or heritage, but provides the opportunity to create new sites from everyday journeys and places (you can also, cycle, drive, use ferries and fly if you like). A process of counter-mapping that brings different things into focus aside from traditional cartography and archaeology, and generates future heritage. It is as much – if not more – to do with the collaborative experience, the bringing together of people and the ‘performance’ of the month-long survey, as it is to do with the outcome. Why not divert from the everyday, follow new routes and experience new places?
Public Archaeology 2015 aims to engage the public with archaeological themes and practices in some way. I hope that Map Orkney Month will introduce mappers to some concepts of archaeological survey and processes, but at the same time explore new ways of conducting such surveys, asking questions about value, authenticity and authority; the project is in many hands. As well as learning something about archaeology, maybe we can challenge some forms of archaeological practice. To extend this further, and perhaps slightly subversively, I have made a call for imaginary contributions for sites in Orkney from people outside of the county. These could be places that have been visited on a previous visit to Orkney, or simply sites that could or should be here. Imaginary sites sharpen the focus of the project on the mapping event as creative and collaborative practice, and even questions the need to actually be in Orkney. I’ll discuss these ideas further in another post.
So far, there are 40 confirmed participants throughout Orkney. I’ve tried to get contributions from all of the main inhabited islands and only participants from Westray, Stronsay, Hoy and Egilsay are still needed. Most Map Orkney Month participants are not archaeologists, but I have been keen to include archaeologists as well. I’m hoping to get unexpected contributions from smartphone GPS mappers and gain more participants as the month goes along. For the North Isles (of Orkney), I’ve got some jiffy bags and stamps and I’m posting GPSs between islands. The first one has already arrived safely in Sanday and is ready to go. There are at least three people mapping in different places on the 1st March and I’ve worked out a timetable for the first couple of weeks. I’ve got 3 GPS of my own to send around. Let’s see how the return post works out – maybe folk will leave the GPS turned on for the ferry or flight home in the postbag?
At the moment, the idea is to produce an A3 leaflet with the resulting map, sites and a sample of the records. This will be freely available and made into a PDF for the PA2015 blog. This, however, is just an idea, and I hope that the outcome can be developed during some workshops later in the month.
It’s not too late to get involved…
Map Orkney Month events:
Collaborative walk (14 / 15th) – MoM Mappers can join me for a walk, somewhere in Orkney, TBC.
Workshop (21 / 22nd) – Skill-share mapping workshop. How to make maps from tracks with GIS. We can pool ideas here for the final map leaflet. Venue likely to be in Kirkwall, TBC.
Twitter: pa2015info #MapOrkneyMonth