September 2016 start. Royal Holloway, University of London: PI Professor Felix Driver.
The Indigenous map: native information, ethnographic object, artefact of encounter
This project researches Indigenous contribution to the Royal Geographical Society’s map collection and aims to highlight the importance of Indigenous maps in European exploration.
The RGS’s map collection consists mostly of printed maps from official mapping agencies, but there are also manuscript maps from a variety of sources. Some of these maps were made by Indigenous people the British encountered in the process of geographical exploration and colonial reconnaissance. When these maps were accessioned into Western collections, their use and meaning changed as they became sources of ‘native information’, ethnographic objects or exotic curiosities.
By re-conceptualising Indigenous maps as artefacts of encounter, this research shows that Indigenous maps evade simple classification, and examines the potential of such maps to highlight the exchanges of knowledge that were taking place between British explorers and colonisers and Indigenous people.
There is a great variety of Indigenous maps in the RGS-IBG’s collection, such as: paper maps of trans-Saharan caravan routes drawn by slaves and Arab traders in the 1820s; engraved copies of Inuit maps included in a narrative of an Arctic exploration from 1835; a Gujarati chart of the Red Sea, produced in the 17th century and collected by an East India Company officer in 1835; a collection of copied and traced ‘native’ maps from colonial Burma produced in the 1870s; and a Tibetan map of Sikkim used by the Tibetan military and seized by the British authorities in 1888.
Find out more
You can find Joy’s university page here. An article about Joy’s research and her archival trip to Delhi was published in the March 2019 edition of the Geographical Magazine, available here.