Narratives and Maps

One of the things that interested me the most while visiting Erin’s History Truck studio last week was the large map of Kensington that marked where residents’ first memory of the neighborhood took place. The idea of turning a map into sometime so alive with personal memory was really exiting for me, and made the physical space of the neighborhood seem much more alive than a traditional map might. I also appreciated the way that the map included narratives by allowing participants to tell stories about their memories of the spaces.

Narratives of spaces are also employed in Jen Gieseking’s analysis of college space in “Reconstructing Women: scaled portrayals of privilege and gender norms on campus”. Gieseking uses a similar way of thinking about people and space, although she transforms the personal stories into a larger conclusion about the way that people interact with space. Although the History Truck also deals with this interaction of people and space, Gieseking’s article addresses more directly the way that people are shaped by spaces. Although Gieseking uses direct quotes from individuals, the experiences and reactions she records are meant to be collective, and betray something about a universal experience for most Mount Holyoke students.

Both the History Truck and Gieseking’s article ask individuals personal questions about space, but the way they deal with the nature of personal narratives of space is vastly different. Although the History Truck is looking for sometime collective that many people can claim as their own, it also speaks about the specific details and uniqueness of each person’s experiences within the same larger spaces. Although Gieseking is aware of the unique situations of particular MHC students (like the quote 283 from a student who considered herself alienated by her class), she still uses their experience to make a larger point with a more universal conclusion. I realize that Gieseking had a very different purpose in writing about space that a project like the History Truck, but I still wished that Gieseking’s article had brought in the types of individual overlapping experiences that I loved about the map in Erin’s studio. Although they both serve as interesting examples of bringing together individual narratives about space, I am partial to Erin’s map that shows how varied and unique each person’s experience is.

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