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Building a Cultural Atlas with Undergrad Students
Thursday, September 16, 2021, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST
Category: Webinars

Building a Cultural Atlas with Undergraduate Students

Presenter: Ashley Nepp, GIS Instructor and Lab Supervisor, Macalester College

Host: Diana Sinton

What makes a place special? What does a place feel like? Sound like? Smell like? These are the kinds of questions examined in a cultural atlas. Following in the example of “Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas” by Rebecca Solnit, and “Portlandness: A Cultural Atlas” by David Banis and Hunter Shobe, 18 students in Macalester Geography's spring 2019 Cultural Atlas Production course created “Curious City: In, Out, Above, Beyond Saint Paul” a cultural atlas of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Each student created a two-page spread that “tells a story with data” on a topic of their choosing. These stories explore different aspects of the city from a fossil hunting field guide, to a visualization of the book “The Latehomecomer” a Hmong family’s migration story, to the changing role of local libraries, and many more. To create these stories, students spent the semester conducting interviews, meeting with community members, exploring archives, and conducting field work around the city. For 13 weeks the class worked as a team to create a print atlas from start to finish; determine topics, gather data, designing their spreads and the atlas artwork, organizing the atlas, writing an introduction, and finally working through the publishing process. This presentation will offer reflections on successes, failures and lessons learned during this process! 

A recording of the session can be found at