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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

London Transport Museum Commission new "Underground Map"

I know there's lots of map geeks who read the blog, so don't think this is yet another Tube or London Underground Map (there's plenty of those to go round). However, this newly commissioned map will be a map about London's Underground. It will include the transport network but also everything else that's subterranean, from pre-history to the contemporary.

Stephen Walter map by Rooney
Stephen Walter map by Rooney

Artist Stephen Walter had produced a amazingly detailed a hand-drawn map of London's surface, called The Island Series in 2008. This was made up of words and symbols mingled with geographical information to form "a celebration of place". It was on display last year in The British Library's Magnificant Maps exhibition.

On London Transport Museum's blog Stephen said "I would like to have noted the lost rivers of London in ‘The Island.’ The continuing flow of waters that now find themselves diverted and channeled through a system of pipes underground still ending in the Thames. These are the very routes of our city. When London Transport Museum came to me for a new idea, I thought of it straight away – An Underground map of London where I could finally include those lost rivers and develop my own Tube map."

He's currently developing ideas for the new subterranean map and wants your input so it can be a "peoples' map". He said "When thinking about London Underground, most people will relate to the Tube system and their memories of events whilst on it, or to a crypt, basement or tunnel." He'd like to delve deeper into the questions of what the ‘underground’ means to people and how it might be interpreted.

There's a series of interesting open questions on the museum's blog to inspire some thoughts. They include:

What rumors of ‘secret’ underground infrastructure have you heard about?
What does the ‘underworld’ mean to you?
When you think about what is underground in London, what do you see?
What is your concept of what is ‘underlying’?

So let your mind wander, think about all the things that interest you about what's under London. For me it's secret passageways, secret tunnels, hidden bunkers, sewers, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, ghost and disused stations like The Mail Rail and Aldwych, mice and rats, The Thames Tunnel, 'real' underground ghosts, mad troglodytes, travelling beneath the river, night shift workers, plague pits, what's being uncovered in Crossrail's construction, scary thoughts of getting stuck in the Underground when it's closed for the night (I could go on and on).

But let Stephen know whatever it means to you. I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone's thoughts get represented on the map. If it's anything like The Island it'll be amazing.

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