Thursday, July 14, 2011

Archival research on the history of cartography

I spent much of last week working at the National Archives in London. I was looking in a range of different central government records for historic maps and plans related to various aspects of the built environment in Manchester. The research was kindly supported by a J.B. Harley Research Fellowship in the History of Cartography that I was awarded in 2010.

It was enjoyable looking for old material but rather confusing at times - the scale of the available archives is somewhat overwhelming. Although the staff at the National Archives were very helpful it still took a couple of days to work out their systems and what kinds of material to order that were likely to yield interesting maps. In the end I found interesting cartographic materials related to public transport plans, electricity infrastructure, city centre parking and second world war air raids. Some of these material will become part of the Mapping Manchester book I am working on with my colleague Chris Perkins.

The standout find was in the railway records and was a very long track plan from the early 1970s of the 'Victoria - Piccadilly Tunnel Link: Proposed Resignalling and Electrification'. A small segment of the plan detailing the tunnel planned under Manchester city centre is shown below. (If you want to track it down yourself it is contained in file reference AN 129/64, Transport facilities Manchester conurbations: plans and estimates, 1971 Jan - 1973 July.)


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