“Cities have the capability to at any moment shift out of the familiar, even if you’ve lived in one all your life.” Kate Milford
The first metropolitan city atlas authored by Rebecca Solnit and published in 2010 is called Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas. The atlas was the result of a commission from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to celebrate their 75th anniversary. Rebecca expanded the undertaking to New York City and New Orleans. This is not an atlas as we usually think of them. She used 22 beautiful color maps and essays from local historians to uncover the layers of this city. It quickly became a bestseller.
Her next book, published in 2013 and co-authored with Rebecca Snedeker, was Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas. . There are 20 essays representing the diversity of the city, from musicians, prison activists, geographers, local experts and more. There are also 22 full-color two-page-spread innovative maps. One map is called “Sugar Heaven and Sugar Hell – Pleasures and Brutalities of a Commodity”.
The culminating volume in this trilogy is the just published Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas. It is co-authored by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. This volume has 26 imaginative maps and essays from dozens of New York City experts. The experts are journalists, artists, photographers, linguists, ethnographers and many more. It covers all five boroughs and parts of New Jersey. As one reviewer said “It is both a challenge and homage to how New Yorkers think of their city, and how the world sees this capital of capitalism, culture, immigration, and more.”
One of my favorite features in this book is a map called City of Women. The authors have taken a NYC subway map and located where great, creative and significant New York City women lived, worked, attended school and made a name for themselves. The history of the women begins at the founding of the city with the 17th century Quaker preacher named Hannah Freake Bowne.
Cartography by Molly Roy, from “Nonstop Metropolis,” by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.
Subway Route Symbols ® Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Another of my favorite maps and essays is called Singing the City and it has songs celebrating New York City placed on the map according to their subject matter. Find “Take the A Train”, the soundtrack to “West Side Story” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Feel Groovy”.
As Rebecca Solnit says “In maps you can see how a place got to be the way it is and who was there before you”. The popularity of these books might encourage people around the world to look into their local history with a fresh perspective.
If you finish the atlas but still want more, check out the Nonstop Metropolis: The Remix exhibition at the Queens Museum. It opened last spring and is a collaboration with Rebecca Solnit. Among many galleries of works inspired by this atlas, there are two new works of art created for the Queens Museum inspired by essays from Nonstop Metropolis that will focus on the linguistic diversity of Queens, and water and power. The exhibit will run until January 1, 2017.
Photos of the maps courtesy of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas