The journey begins with an old map by Karen Alderson

The journey begins with an old map by Karen Alderson

In “The Nature of Things” Lyall Watson suggests that matter has the capacity to absorb emotional “fingerprints” & offers evidence of our sensitivity to tiny natural patterns of energy. I am intrigued by how we interact with objects, I heard on a radio show how a teacher once offered students £10 to wear a jumper for the duration of a lesson, quite a number of hands shot up to earn the easy money.  However, when he explained the garment had been worn by a child murderer the students recoiled in horror. What does this say about our relationship to things? Why do people pay thousands to own objects touched by a celebrity? Why are handmade goods so sought after?

We seem to imbue objects with a significance way beyond their intended function and some of these objects are brought together in rare and esoteric collections all over the world. Objects have a life history, albeit an undocumented one beyond how they are logged in the archives and displayed in museums. Who has owned them ? Why were they collected? Think about the things you collect and why. Click the following link that explores this and more.

On the way to Bankfield Museum I planned to view toys, dolls houses and shoes . Ebony, the Collections Officer, brought some examples but none inspired me, I felt “lost,” and momentarily adrift as I needed an object to anchor me to the project . I had been moving through an unclear period and felt I needed a new direction. Did Bankfield hold any interesting maps? Ebony excitedly led me down some stone steps into dusty stores to reveal a gigantic topographical map, approximately 1.25m square. I knew that my quest had begun. The map had lost bits of wood veneer, it seemed substantial yet there was a sense of fragility and neglect.


The 3D map made in 1925 by E.Reynolds was commissioned by the Borough Engineer in Halifax. I observed how Ebony presented it and her comments: it was heavy; the accession number was 2002 which didn’t bode well for information about its history; the map seemed to be abandoned & “lost” in the store, which seemed a paradox for a map when it is a method of finding one’s way. This seemed to be significant.

Later, Jeff Wilkinson joined me & we made a tentative assumption that the map had been an aid to a road widening or building programme. He told me about ancient routes and historical boundary contestations in the Calder Valley.

I took photographs of the handles, staples, two padlocks and some thick shoe lace attached to the sides of the base. I’m not sure of the significance of these attachments yet. Later I find that E. Reynolds died in Shipley in 1931. I intend to go to Shipley, somewhere I have never been, and to walk in a way described by the Situationists International as a “derive” or “drift” i.e. to not have a map & to walk without any clear intent.

My initial texts are “Walking Inside Out”by Tina Richardson; “Walking & Mapping” by Karen O’Rouke, “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” by Rebecca Solnit.I am also influenced by Grayson Perry’s map of days. Click the link for more information.

I have a sense of simultaneously  uncovering and creating a new history for the map and working with uncertainty.




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