Blog 2- Mapping it all out (Tilahun)

While looking through different things in the Digital Durham Archives, I was particularly interested in a map I saw. I chose a map because most other times, I would have chosen a photo, or letter but I wanted to see what a map (something I seldom use) can reveal about a city I didn’t know much about.

The map was made by Durham, (N.C.). Department of Public Works in 1930. The map’s target audience seems to be developers, and public officials who would benefit from this information provided on the map. The map is detailed in the names of the streets, as well as the size of the sewage lines across the city.

The map itself and how it was constructed was very interesting. The two main focal points of the map were street names, and sewage (size and location). So, the legend focused on these two things, outlining the names and locations of the streets, as well as a key outlining how different color signified a different size sewage. The map shows signs of edits and corrections as the city developed and new roads and sewage systems needed to be added. Interestingly, the larger sewage systems are found more on the outskirts of the city (more specifically towards the NE part of the city). I found it interesting that the larger sewage lines were clustered in certain locations because this may reveal something about the reason to which this was a thing. Unfortunately, I found it hard to match the map from 1930 to the current map of Durham due to how much the city has developed since then.

But a few of the streets that remain with the same name were Yearby, Erwin and Lewis which are all familiar streets on campus. Using that as an anchor point, and using a ‘financial’ map of Durham, I tried to make a comparison between socioeconomic development of certain parts of the city today, and the sewage sizes in 1930. Not surprisingly, there were many correlations. Although this is nothing conclusive, this really sparked my interest in how much technical documents can actually show. Overlaying this one technical map with maps that show current Durham’s development, wealth distribution, racial classification and education system, one could learn a lot about how the city came to be within the context of history, law and other factors that still continue to affect the city.



One Reply to “Blog 2- Mapping it all out (Tilahun)”

  1. Edom, I share your interest in maps. As you demonstrate, there are multiple ways of engaging with maps as archival materials. While looking maps across time would give you some historical perspective (on the development of Durham), looking at different kinds of maps for the same historical period (like you mentioned ‘financial’ one) might give you more depth. Finally, accompanying your readings of maps with other archival materials would give you a deeper analysis of issues you raised, including wealth distribution, racial relations, and education system.

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