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Rich layers of history, heritage, culture in Annapolis community map

COGS student Katie Chute, right, looks at a map with several community members who are writing down suggestions to place on the digital version. An information session was held April 7 in Lawrencetown to unveil the Annapolis Community Mapping Project.
COGS student Katie Chute, right, looks at a map with several community members who are writing down suggestions to place on the digital version. An information session was held April 7 in Lawrencetown to unveil the Annapolis Community Mapping Project.

LAWRENCETOWN - Heather LeBlanc can get you on the map – literally.

For the past four years she and a group of community volunteers and Nova Scotia Community College students and instructors have been building a multi-layer digital map that combines the history, culture, people, architecture, and geography of Annapolis County in a website that will soon go live.

On April 7 LeBlanc and the people behind the Annapolis Community Mapping Project held an information session open to the public, giving glimpses of the results of their efforts to date. From pre-Confederation homes, old graveyards, current walking trails, Black Loyalist settlements, to the numerous old wharfs of Annapolis Royal, the project is rich with hundreds of years of the county’s history.

Those attending got a look at the website and its click-on, pop-up functions that will go live sometime in early May.

For the past four years she and a group of community volunteers and Nova Scotia Community College students and instructors have been building a multi-layer digital map that combines the history, culture, people, architecture, and geography of Annapolis County in a website that will soon go live.

On April 7 LeBlanc and the people behind the Annapolis Community Mapping Project held an information session open to the public, giving glimpses of the results of their efforts to date. From pre-Confederation homes, old graveyards, current walking trails, Black Loyalist settlements, to the numerous old wharfs of Annapolis Royal, the project is rich with hundreds of years of the county’s history.

Those attending got a look at the website and its click-on, pop-up functions that will go live sometime in early May.

Heather LeBlanc, Annapolis Community Mapping Project manager talks with those who attended the information session April 7 at COGS. The website goes live in early May.

Collaboration

“The information session today was a collaboration between the Age Advantage Association, Annapolis Community Mapping volunteers and participants, and the students and instructor of the Centre of Geographic Sciences,” said LeBlanc, project manager. “We’ve been working together for the last four years on a web-based map that went from one or two layers to 12 or 14 different layers on the map.”

LeBlanc said the original group encompassed the Bridgetown and Annapolis Royal areas. Since then many other communities have joined to become part of the project. But the project was based on an intergenerational approach so the older folk in the communities could share information with a younger generation.

“The students had a chance, and our participants had a chance, to hear each others stories from the community, but also learn from the students when it came to some computer literacy or how they entered things on a map,” LeBlanc said. “And the students were just so excited to hear the stories and facts from the community -- things that they never knew.”

Philip Hyam shows how the map works using his laptop. He helped with a broader demonstration earlier, showing how heritage homes and cemeteries were placed on a map layer.

Share Stories

“A key role of community maps lies in their ability to share our stories of people and place,” said Ed Symons, COGS instructor and chair of the Age Advantage Association. “This allows us to take stock, looking at ourselves so that we may know ourselves, and through critical self-reflection gain a stronger sense of identity as we gain a greater appreciation of that which defines us.”

Not only that, Symons believes it may provide a voice to those who aren’t always heard.

“Maps draw people together and open up conversation,” he said. “By bringing together a diverse array of citizens in a map-centric way we can prompt thoughtful conversations. These conversations may in turn improve wellbeing and social cohesion.”

“The map we started on was to be a loop that went Bridgetown down the 201 to Annapolis Royal and then back around on (Highway 1) back up to Bridgetown – and the thing kind of got out of hand, so we now have I think over 1,600 properties, pre-1914 properties, on our map,” said Anne Crossman of Centrelea, one of the founders of the project.

For Crossman it’s the stories. That’s what gets her.

“The people who collected this information, people like Ruth Burgess and Wendy MacDonald, they found it interesting too, and they put the stories in. There are all kinds of little stories that give you a window on what was going on pre-1914 … pre-Confederation. How wonderful is that?”

And besides being just plain interesting, the information can be useful for all kinds of things -- real estate, trails, school projects.

“It gives a feel of what was going on here a very long time ago,” she said. “It’s a feeling of place, it’s a feeling of where we live. Maybe some of us didn’t come from here but this is where we live and this is what was happening around us and on the land around where we now live.”

Don Rice, Cheryl den Hartog, and Evan Brandt discuss community mapping during a breakout session April 7, part of an Annapolis Community Mapping Project presenation April 7 at COGS in Lawrencetown.

Good Turnout

LeBlanc was pleased with the crowd of 40-or-so at the AV room to hear presentations from various project members before breaking out into groups to look at maps spread out on large tables where they could write down information on post-it notes and stick them on the appropriate spot on the map.

And people did. One person was interested in creating a layer along the Annapolis River marking where old dams had been. Another note suggested information on hunter organizations. Another talked about gardening.

“It was rewarding to see the cross section of people in the audience who are interested in such a grassroots organization and how they can be part or be placed on the map,” LeBlanc said. “They see that they can interact with the map, and it’s relevant to them. We want to stay open and accessible and we’re also always looking for community members, volunteers, community groups to contact us and become involved.”

These were several ideas written down by members of the public on hand for the Annapolis Community Mapping Project presentation breakout session.

World Class

“It is imperative that we draw upon our world class geomatics within Nova Scotia,” said Symons. “We need to develop the capacity of community groups to engage in asset and place-based community mapping. We need to advance a province-wide culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

And Symons believes what is happening in Annapolis County, needs to expand.

“Having successfully assisted a strong, but small core of dedicated community members from a handful of local communities over the past three years, the next phase of the project is to develop a wider network of individuals to help broaden the conversation, increasing our stakeholder diversity,” he said. “At the same time the data already collected must be enhanced, the mapping improved, and our processes better documented.”

LeBlanc couldn’t agree more.

“There’s a whole Annapolis County left to be done,” said LeBlanc, “and many, many layers of extraordinary information out there just waiting to be captured and placed on our map.”

 

Fast Facts

-- The Mapannapolis website was launched April 7 and will go live in early May.

-- The project will be looking for people starting again in September.

-- They work within the semester system of the NSCC.

-- People don’t have to be computer savvy to take part – having information that others can place on the map is enough.

-- The communities chose what information goes on the map. Project leaders do not superimpose what they think is important.

Levi Cliche, Bill Crossman, and Monica Lloyd talk about what pieces of information could be placed on the Annapolis County map.

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