Maps can be about more than roads, waterways, and county lines. Maps can tell far deeper stories about the places where we live

In 2017, five years since The Age Advantage Association first brought COGS students and volunteer seniors together to learn about and then create an on-line community asset map, the work continues. The vision has widened, the number of instructors and students from the Centre of Geographic Sciences involved has grown, and the volunteer groups mapping their County interests has ballooned.

Originally, stories relied on the oral tradition. Stories were told, remembered, spoken aloud and passed on. With writing came a new way to tell a story, and with the performing arts, yet more ways.

With data visualization – web-based maps – Mapping Project volunteers are telling the stories of their own choosing about Annapolis County.

For instance, over two decades ago, starting in the ’80’s, our provincial government identified about 2400 pre and post-Confederation heritage homes. Researchers took pictures, wrote a brief history of the buildings’ style and traced, as far as was reasonably possible, the owners of the buildings. There were paper records but in many cases, it was neighbours using their own memories who contributed vital information about who lived in the buildings being catalogued, and for how long.

It was this mass of paper information that one group of the Annapolis Community Mapping Project decided to move to an on line, web-based map, entering data point by data point.  Today,  the original 2400 properties have been digitally mapped, and 200 MORE have been added. And the work continues week after week, undertaken by volunteers – volunteers who decided this was a story about where we live which needed to be told,  expanded, preserved, and made easily available to anyone., anywhere. Think of that… Volunteers.

Collaborating with instructors and students from the Centre of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown, all volunteers in the Annapolis County Mapping Project learned the technology and software that makes web-based mapping possible. And then, they chose the stories they wanted to tell in this state-of-the-art data visualization form.

A Little Mapping Project History

Conceived in November 2011, the Age Advantage Association – funded by both the federal and provincial governments – successfully created a pilot web-based community mapping project by December, 2012. Delivered in two stages, coincident with the Nova Scotia Community College’s (NSCC) fall and spring terms, separate groups meeting in Annapolis Royal and the Bridgetown area developed web-based, community asset maps. A Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) instructor and his students provided technical expertise and training.

As a result of this project, participants acquired skill and experience in the technology and software needed to create web-based maps. Some of these participants now constitute a cadre of trainers in this specialized area. As the Project has grown, this group has been teaching newcomers, creating new trainers.

Now, a five years later, the Project has grown and its focus has broadened. There are more instructors and students from COGS involved. New communities such as Clementsport and Bear River are now part of the Project. Annapolis Royal and Bear River have mapped commercial interests, artists studios, galleries and accommodations, recognizing their economic importance to their communities.

The Age Advantage Association Purpose

  • To introduce the concept of web-based, community mapping to an ever-larger Annapolis County population and demonstrate the value of volunteer contributions to it.
  • To demonstrate how new technology increases opportunities for sharing heritage, cultural, genealogical, recreational and commercial information about community-chosen areas of the County.
  • To nurture the collaboration with NSCC/COGS instructors and students in mapping community assets and emerging Association projects where their skills and competencies will be of benefit to themselves and County communities.
  • To familiarize all participants with, and build their confidence in, basic computer skills and INTERNET technology.
  • To make it possible for the maps created by its volunteers to be continually updated and so be a useful tool in furthering the County’s economic development.

The Age Advantage Association’s Mandate

  • To promote and facilitate web-based asset mapping in Annapolis County.
  • To encourage an ever-widening circle of communities to define for themselves the heritage, cultural, genealogical and recreational attributes of their areas.
  • To place volunteers in a multi-generational learning environment, exposing them to new technology and concepts in geographic science.
  • To create a growing cadre of local mapping trainers, in an on-going, expanding collaboration with NSCC & COGS.
  • To make these new data sets available to other organizations, businesses and potential newcomers as a tool in re-imagining economic rural growth.
  • To explore potential commercial uses of the new heritage, cultural, genealogical and recreational products so far created.
  • To refine a best practice operating manual to enable communities across Nova Scotia to create their own web-based asset maps.

To Sum Up

Community-created asset maps are based on the premise that local residents possess expert knowledge of their local environments which can be expressed in a geographical framework which is easily understandable and universally recognized. Participatory maps often represent a socially or culturally distinct understanding of landscape and include information that is excluded from mainstream or official maps.

Maps created by local communities represent the place in which they live, showing those elements that communities themselves perceive as important, a consolidation of all that is valuable and worthwhile within a community, from a local perspective. Asset or “capacity-based” maps offer to those outside the County a positive way to assess its untapped potential, sufficiency, and local pride of place. Communities can use cultural mapping as a tool for self-awareness to promote understanding of the diversity within a community and to protect and conserve traditions, customs, and resources. Such maps offer powerful insights to potential residents, entrepreneurs and developers, and to government agencies at all levels.

The Asset-Based Community Development approach is based on the assumption that producing strong community-based projects arises out of the ability to connect the community’s assets and the organization’s assets. These maps and the maps yet-to-come are an integral part of that development process.