RCC exhibition highlights unusual maps of Donegal

AN exhibition of cartography, offering different ways to look at the land, has opened in the Regional Cultural Centre.
Mapping Alternative Ulster is a collection of cartographic work that plots out a very different landscape than anything you’ll find on the pages of a conventional road map or atlas.
Some map-makers work with the latest digital technology, charting urban zones, while others are rural, working with paper and ink
Curator, Garrett Carr has been watching the work of independent map-makers in Ulster for years now.
“I think a lot of their maps are important, a lot of them are beautiful, a lot of them are both. But not many people know about this body of work. The map-makers themselves are a very disparate bunch and often don’t know about each other. I felt it was time to gather some of the best work and display it all in one room for everybody to see.”
The exhibition showcases more than a dozen custom-made maps, each taking a very different look at the places we think we know so well. It brings together diverse mapmakers: local historians, activists, artists, geographers and urban planners, all interpreting our surroundings in different ways.
For example, forgotten place names were a particular interest to Dan McGinley when he began mapping remote parts of south-west Donegal. Two of his maps are in Mapping Alternative Ulster.
Although McGinley’s map is full of word-of-mouth history and local knowledge, it was developed, in part, digitally. In London, McGinley works as a computer programmer. To help create this map he created a software programme which works like a Crossword solver, searching an electronic word list for word patterns. This helped with the process of translation and with the organization of the vast amount of place names on the map.
“I just happened across his map of Slieve League, a print of it was pinned up, unframed, in the community centre in Kilcar. I was amazed by the detail, it was an important map in giving me the determination to set up this exhibition.”
Another part of Donegal is featured on a map that is new to this particular run of Mapping Alternative Ulster, ‘Drumacross, Donegal’ is a very personal map of a small area near the border where the map-maker, Nuala Reddin, used to walk with her father when she was a child.
This map was created shortly after his death, as a record of him and the land they explored together. Reddin has used thread to chart the layout of the fields. She dyed the threads herself, the dye produced from leaves and berries collected in the very landscape shown in the map.
This is just just a few of the maps in the show and they all have stories behind them, stories told on the panels displayed alongside each map.
Garrett Carr, is the author of The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border, and one of his border maps is included.
His, and all the maps in Mapping Alternative Ulster encourage us to re-think the ways we look at landscape.
The exhibition runs until March 4.

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