A Lawrence Technological University professor is leading a community mapping project in Detroit. And though he may be Principal Investigator of Mapping + Humanities, Dr. Joongsub Kim, Ph.D., has designed it in a way that makes the community members themselves the true leaders of the project.
Dr. Kim, Professor, and Director of LTU’s Master of Urban Design program, and his team have designed a mobile mapping cart to allow community members of Detroit’s West End neighborhood to map and document their neighborhood and tell their own stories.
The mapping cart is attached to a bicycle, and local high school students ride it around the neighborhood. Drawings, pictures, and infographics are then created to be incorporated into maps. Captured are things that affect people’s daily lives, vacant buildings but also historically significant buildings and other community assets.
The spectacle of a bike-pulled mapping cart is also meant to draw crowds, facilitating conversations and the sharing of stories between neighbors.
“We’d like to make sure that the community is able to design and build their own maps so that they have ownership and want to use them rather than have outside planners coming in and saying, Here’s a plan for you, here’s a map for you, now use it,” says Dr. Kim.
“This is to give people a sense of voice and empowerment.”
Mapping + Humanities is a multi-tier program. Following a November exhibition, the first mapping cart will be given to the community in December. In the meantime, planning sessions are being held with local high school students. A manual will then be put together, and the high school students will be helped in making their own mapping cart.
Mapping + Humanities is a collaboration between Urban Design and Humanities programs at LTU and West Grand Boulevard Collaborative in Detroit’s West End neighborhood. A Michigan Humanities Council Grant funds it.