Visual History of Boston Through Maps Talk Response

I personally found the talk covering the “Visual History of Boston (Beantown) Through Maps” presented by Bahare Sanaie-Movahed and Steven Braun to be very interesting due to their discussion on the visual benefits of maps as a teaching tool. I enjoyed how they discussed the different ways that maps are useful to scholars, such as their ability to possess rhetorical power in defining communities. I found their example maps throughout the presentation to be supremely informative and helpful. Specifically, the map of Boston with the outlined neighborhoods in black and the contradicting neighborhoods that the people of Boston recognize underneath in blue to be very intriguing. It is a new and interesting way to look at a map. Throughout the talk they consistently discussed layered maps, and I felt that this was an excellent example. It showed that maps can say one thing, and that thing may be fact, but the facts of the map may not be recognized by the population that inhabits the area. I have always viewed maps as irrefutable tables of fact, and this particular example showed me a way in which maps are not necessarily as simple as they appear.

I also found the use of maps as a visual tool to show the progression of a city such as Boston to be fascinating. The talk covered this in two major ways, in discussing Boston as a manmade city and Boston as a future flood zone. Prior to this talk, I had never known how manmade the city of Boston actually is. By using the maps that showed the progression and growth of manmade portions of Boston, the point came across much clearer than if the information had been written down somewhere in a book. The visualization provided a new outlet for understanding, one that I found to be extremely helpful. This use of multiple maps to show changes in the environment of Boston was used again during the discussion of Boston Wetlands, and again, I found the visuals provided to be an extremely helpful way in seeing progression in the city.

The talk was also helpful in the discussion of different mapping applications that can be found online. I really enjoyed the presenters use of websites such as and USGS Historical Topographical Maps as examples of web-sources that showcase the layering of historical maps on their modern-day counterparts. After attempting to do this on a small scale in this class, I have learned how extremely difficult this can be, and therefore greatly appreciate these already made applications. This concept of layering historical maps over modern maps is something that I did not know about prior to attending this course, and being able to see examples of it, particularly examples of the caliber discussed in this presentation, are very helpful as it shows how informative they can be. Overall, I found this talk to be supremely helpful as it showed the different applications of maps and how helpful they can be as a teaching tool.

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