Mapping Moberg

Archaeologist Dan Lee has set up an intriguing project naming March as Map Orkney Month and inviting people to create a new map of Orkney, tracing their own movements around the county. Irresistible. Here is my contribution starting with the GPS drawing of the trip between home and work made by satellite signals sent from the device I wore as necklace that day.

When, after my commute from Stromness, I arrive at Orkney Library and Archives in Kirkwall the journey begins. Travelling in my workroom I can cover astonishing distances, Papay and North Ronaldsay before tea break, Hoy and Wyre after lunch. Visiting places fleetingly or sometimes lingering longer, I do this through the photography of Gunnie Moberg. I decided to map the photographs in Gunnie Moberg’s first publication Stone Built published in 1979 by Stromness Books and Prints (which happens to be the shop I live above and where my physical GPS mapped journey began). To trace this journey I used Blaeu’s 17th century map of the islands, one of the earliest maps of Orkney. The map holds its own peculiarities so plotting some of the sites was tricky, but happily the map features Sule Skerry as being right next to North Ronaldsay (rather than 60km west of the mainland) so I was able to plot the lighthouse without falling off the map. Because of the early nature of this map, the shape plotted by going from point to point, in the sequence dictated by the book, will be particular to Blaeu and quite different from accurate co-ordinates. This seemed to fit the geographically irregular and deeply satisfying journey of Stone Built. Rebecca Marr, Gunnie Moberg Archive project ‘It seems positively unnatural to travel without taking a camera along… The very activity of taking pictures is soothing and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel. Susan Sontag 1977, On Photography’ A black line map of the places featured in Stone Built as plotted on Blaeu's map. Cover of the book Stone built Nonsense of direction! Duncan McLean was good enough to correct me on a mapping point. In an email titles ‘Not Sole Sule’ he explained…

‘Sule Skerry IS right next to North Ron (NW corner).  It’s a small Sule Skerry, with lots of seals/selchies/selkies/sules on it still.  The bigger, better known Sule Skerry is of course 50 miles west, and has a lighthouse on it, and lots of birds.  (I went there once.)  So in this case Blau isn’t being Dali-esque in his mapping, as he so often is: in fact his little Sule Skerry is accurately placed.  But unfortunately this means your map of Gunnie’s photos isn’t, because it was the further flung one she went to, wasn’t it?’

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