Maps at Home with PG Watkins and a recreated map of Detroit’s Black Bottom

What is your map at home (title, year, etc.)

This is a digitally recreated map of the Black Bottom neighborhood as it was in 1951 by Emily Kutil, the creator of Black Bottom Street View. The map was compiled in 2018 from Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.

Where did you find/acquire the map?

Black Bottom Archives, an organization I am the director & co-founder of, printed these maps in a limited edition way as a way to fundraise.

What made you hang it on your wall? What stood out to you? What details do you enjoy about the map?

Black Bottom is such an important part of my work and I love having the reminder of this significant neighborhood in my home and seeing it everyday. I got a custom framing job done at Eric’s I’ve Been Framed on Livernois and he helped me find a frame that matched the tones of the map and made it look so lovely I couldn’t help but hang it up! The details I love are that there are a few important community spaces that are marked on the map. And, because it was made from fire insurance maps, you can also see what kind of materials the different structures were made of, which tells a bit of its own story in the conditions of the neighborhood at the time.

What in your background has drawn you to maps?

I am a lover of history and maps tell so many stories. With Black Bottom being such a focal point of my work, I am always drawn to maps that seek to define the boundaries of the neighborhood. From the elders I’ve talked to, I know that how far east and west and north the neighborhood actually went is something that there are a variety of opinions about. I know if different people were to have created this map and it would have looked differently, and that is so compelling to me. Maps have always been a way of understanding someone’s perspective and connection to the place they’re documenting.

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