Thematic and Design Paradigms in Minnesota’s Official Highway Maps, 1936-2018

Authors: Haley Churchill*, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Josie Myers*, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Ezra Zeitler*, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Topics: Cartography, Cultural Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Cultural geography, feminist cartography, content analysis, highway maps, Minnesota
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the mid-1930s, highway maps distributed by the State of Minnesota have become more detailed and comprehensive while integrating themes reflecting aspects of the state’s diverse economic activities. This study identifies the themes emphasized in Minnesota highway maps, how they have changed over the past century, and how technological advancements in map production have influenced the cartographic elements employed in their design. A manifest content analysis of imagery and text included in ten highway maps produced by the State of Minnesota between the years of 1936 and 2009 reveals several thematic paradigms in content: a focus on “Up North” tourism during the 1930s, a focus on patriotism and history in the 1940s and 1950s, a focus on wilderness-related tourism during the 1960s and into 1970s, when new interstate and highway systems were emphasized, and a shift in emphasis towards the state’s urban cultural amenities from the late 1980s to the present. Recent scholarship in feminist cartography informed a critical latent analysis of the sampled maps highlighted an equitable inclusion of women but revealed problematic representations of Indigenous peoples. Considering the current print/digital navigation crossroads in society, we suggest that paper highway maps still meet the needs of their users, and in doing so, have the potential to be more inclusive in their design and thematic content.

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