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Cultural Mapping

Cultural Mapping

Cultural mapping has been recognized by UNESCO as a crucial tool and technique in preserving the world's intangible and tangible cultural assets. It encompasses a wide range of techniques and activities from community-based participatory data collection and management to sophisticated mapping using GIS (Geographic Information Systems).

Culture and experience shape belief systems, the direction of education, the media, tourism, community development, planning, and creative industries, which in turn influence people’s perceptions of places. It is essential to understand the factors that influence perceptions of places, paying particular attention to personal and community interpretations of culture. Cultural mapping, therefore, is used in both a literal and metaphorical sense, where it goes beyond strict cartography to include not only land, but also other cultural resources and information recorded by alternative techniques.

Cultural mapping themes are wide and varied, diverse resources include...

Anthropological    Sociological       Archaeological     Genealogical

Linguistic              Topographic       Musicological       Botanical

What is cultural mapping?

Mapping has been mankind’s indispensable tool in elucidating natural and cultural landscapes and is used for a myriad of purposes. Relevant to UNESCO is the mobilization of cultural mapping tools and instruments as a fundamental step in its objective to safeguard cultural diversity.

Cultural mapping involves a community identifying and documenting local cultural resources. Through this research cultural elements are recorded – the tangibles like galleries, craft industries, distinctive landmarks, local events and industries, as well as the intangibles like memories, personal histories, attitudes and values. After researching the elements that make a community unique, cultural mapping involves initiating a range of community activities or projects, to record, conserve and use these elements. …the most fundamental goal of cultural mapping is to help communities recognize, celebrate, and support cultural diversity for economic, social and regional development 

(Keynote speech, Clark, Sutherland & Young 1995.  Cultural Mapping Symposium and Workshop, Australia).

Collected data can be represented through a variety of formats like geographic maps, graphs, diagrams, aerial photographs, satellite-produced images, statistical databases, and others. From this, a comprehensive view of cultural resources can be stored and the documented data will serve as invaluable information for the development of national strategies that engage in accurate and sensitive analysis of people, places, and environments.