'People can trace the history': Local mapmaker recreating historical maps

Fraser King, a PhD student in geography at the University of Waterloo, is taking his passion for topography and fusing it with technology to recreate historical maps of Canada.

Topography is the representation of surfaces and features on a map. It is the lakes, rivers, valleys and peaks that make up the landscapes around us.

“I think you can look at a map, and each time you take a look you see something new,” said King. “There's so much detail compressed so tightly together. They almost cross that boundary between science with geography and art."

What started as a hobby recreating historical maps for family has become a small business.

King combines satellite topographical data and high resolution digital elevation datasets, creating 2D images with a 3D feel.

“For the map reader, it combines texture, colour and shadows and it generates emotion and curiosity, and together that drives an experience,” said Derek Robinson, an assistant professor in geography and environmental management at the University of Waterloo.

According to King, depending on the colour treatment and the topography of each map, they can take anywhere from two days up to a month to complete each print.

With galleries closed, he has partnered with Smile Tiger Coffee in Kitchener as way to share his work.

“It’s really nice to be able to show what our community has to offer, showcase what they have, showcase their talents,” said Alexa Jacob, the manager of Smile Tiger Coffee.

The maps feature Canada’s great landscapes, from coast to coast to coast. They also include local gems like one dating back to 1938 showing the area now known as Cambridge.

“You can definitely pick out Kitchener, Preston, Galt and a bit of Hesleper on the north end. It’s wonderful, I mean people can trace the history of the settlement and the evolution of the settlements,’ said Warren Stauch, a board member with the Waterloo Historical Society.

According to King, recreating these historical maps are his way of appreciating where we started, how far we have come and the endless possibilities the future holds.