Maps can be about more than roads, waterways, and county lines.

Maps can tell far deeper stories about the places where we live.

 

Mapping Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves   

In 2012 a volunteer group of seniors who wanted to make maps met with students learning how to create digital maps. It wasn’t roads or watercourses the seniors wanted to map to begin with, but heritage buildings and structures, graveyards and churches: the warp and weft of rural Nova Scotia’s social history fabric.

Annapolis County, in southwestern Nova Scotia, is home to the Centre for Geographic Sciences (COGS), part of Nova Scotia’s Community College system. With support of the Centre’s administration and instructors, its students became teachers and the seniors became students. It was the beginning of Mapannapolis.ca.

Other County individuals and groups brought their ideas forward, resulting in, for example, digital maps of

  • the first 17th century Acadian settlements along the Annapolis River;
  • 18th century Black Loyalist settlements;
  • the few existing and many long-gone wharves, 43 in all—a record of the County’s early economic development;
  • pre-European arrival canoe routes;
  • community pathways in Bear River, Bridgetown, and Margaretsville.

By 2016 an all-age, self-organized group chose to create the definitive map of the Garrison Graveyard, in use for almost 300 years in Annapolis Royal and part of Parks Canada’s Fort Anne National Historic Site. All two hundred and thirty two standing stones were Geo-located—a COGS surveying class project—and inscriptions catalogued. It maybe found here.

In the Fall of 2017, Mapannapolis was recognized by the Governor General of Canada for Excellence in Community History Programming, in Ottawa at a Rideau Hall gala.

Mapannapolis.ca presents an Annapolis County invisible on a conventional map. It’s heritage buildings and structures map, now with over 2800 entries, was once information and photographs compiled by door-to-door researchers in the 1980s, printed on paper in a limited quantity, and filed away. A self-organized group of volunteers took on the task of translating that mass of information into a digital map, which now has its home at Mapannapolis.ca, and available to anyone in the world with an internet connection.

Those buildings are a link to the stories of the people who built them, of where they built them, and why, and who they were in their communities. Their lives are further remembered in the church records and on the graveyard markers, as are their children and their grand-children.

Which leads our story to the discovery in late 2018 of nineteen unmarked graves in the Garrison Graveyard. Our standing stones map brought attention to an obvious empty area. Many early grave markers were made of wood and simply disappeared over time. It took engaging Boreas Heritage Consulting, and its expertise in ground penetrating radar, to discover the remains of the unmarked graves, and what appears to be the foundation of an Acadian church known to have been extant at the time.

Mapannapolis.ca continues to expand, work continues week after week, undertaken for the most part by passionate volunteers. Their stories about where they live in the Annapolis Region are explored, expanded, told, preserved—and through that journey, they discover themselves.

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.