In 1937, a pictorial fine art map of the University of Toronto was designed and painted by artist Alexander Scott Carter. The map was commissioned by Vincent Massey, then High Commissioner for Canada in Britain, and given as a gift to Hart House. As a vibrantly visual rendition of the university's historical lineage, the map depicts the evolution of the university's various colleges along with its founders, contemporary geographical boundaries, and lush and verdant landscapes. The purpose of this paper is to inquire into its cultural and historical importance.
The paper analyses, and provides a viewpoint on, A. Scott Carter's map.
Carter's map reveals the discursive and visual interpretive frameworks in which the map was situated and the narratives and myths that it sanctioned. The map performs an important function in authorizing the collective identity of the university and its actual and imagined communities. It provides a cultural expression of shared values, ideals, and particular historical traditions. The university's place in the hierarchy and tradition of Canadian higher education in the British Commonwealth is embodied in the map at a time when such ideas were under scrutiny by professors and intellectuals who were arguing for the extrication of Canada from colonial inheritances.
Carter's map highlights the university and its integral cultural artifacts, spaces, and practices as being replete with contested meanings, experiences, and symbolism. Through dynamic cartography, new approaches in deciphering the official and informal campus emerge to produce a nuanced and multifaceted historical picture of university and academic cultures.
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