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visual history

Megan Betz

For several years, I’ve been trying to get my hands on the original map of the Bloomington Community Orchard. My first glimpse of the orchard came not from seeing the space, but from joining the communications team and helping with, among other things, website management. That team was being led by a woman who would become a dear friend, and her husband had translated the original vision for the orchard into this graphic, which lived on the website. BCO developed more complex versions of the graphic to help people identify trees, but this graphic—a translation of the original design with type created to call to mind the original artist’s handwriting–has become my mind’s map of the site. (This graphic was also further translated by me later, for inclusion in my methods piece for Geographical Review.)

Map of the orchard originally used on BCO’s website and print materials, created by Larry Buchanan.

Map of the orchard originally used on BCO’s website and print materials, created by Larry Buchanan.

To get a better understanding of the space and find visual components to support the narrative in my dissertation, I asked BCO if they could share what maps were available in their ad hoc archive. This is a big ask of an all-volunteer organization with nearly 10 years of history, but several folks volunteered to dig through their supplies. I was amazed at what they found. (Thank you, Amy, Dani, Ashley, & Josh, for bringing these documents back to the surface for us.) In addition to one of the earliest maps, I was able to piece together the evolution of the site as design team members edited the maps. See the sequence below to learn more.

Though a bit difficult to see, this map on tracing paper appears to be one of the earliest takes at organizing the site, drawn by Jack, a local artist who joined the project at one of the first callout meetings. Jack drafted the design and anticipated more of a back-and-forth as the community came to a shared vision. He was surprised when the design was largely taken up and conversation moved to what was attainable in a first phase and what cultivars would work best.  From its Jack’s draft, the site centered on building space for community rather than prioritizing maximum production of fruit. The layout flows, to move individuals throughout the space, but also features multiple stopping points—circles scattered through are designed to hold groups of varying sizes for meetings, picnics, or quiet reflection.  The northern edge of the orchard is at the top of the image; this is consistent throughout.

Though a bit difficult to see, this map on tracing paper appears to be one of the earliest takes at organizing the site, drawn by Jack, a local artist who joined the project at one of the first callout meetings. Jack drafted the design and anticipated more of a back-and-forth as the community came to a shared vision. He was surprised when the design was largely taken up and conversation moved to what was attainable in a first phase and what cultivars would work best.

From its Jack’s draft, the site centered on building space for community rather than prioritizing maximum production of fruit. The layout flows, to move individuals throughout the space, but also features multiple stopping points—circles scattered through are designed to hold groups of varying sizes for meetings, picnics, or quiet reflection.

The northern edge of the orchard is at the top of the image; this is consistent throughout.

This map, a facsimile on which more edits have been written in pen, adds signifiant depth to Jack’s layout. This is the most complex map in BCO’s archive, with an aspirational take on plantings that fill the site fully.

This map, a facsimile on which more edits have been written in pen, adds signifiant depth to Jack’s layout. This is the most complex map in BCO’s archive, with an aspirational take on plantings that fill the site fully.

Here, we see a new copy of the second map with less detail to focus on preliminary plantings. Additional details have been added in pen, while others like the southern red raspberry and grape plots have been removed with Wite-Out.

Here, we see a new copy of the second map with less detail to focus on preliminary plantings. Additional details have been added in pen, while others like the southern red raspberry and grape plots have been removed with Wite-Out.

A later version of the map shows additional shifts in locations of top priority plantings, as well as the relocation of the main gate to the center of the northern edge. Here, we see that much of Jack’s original layout remains and much of the orchard that would take shape on the ground—noted in the graphic from the early website—are in place.

A later version of the map shows additional shifts in locations of top priority plantings, as well as the relocation of the main gate to the center of the northern edge. Here, we see that much of Jack’s original layout remains and much of the orchard that would take shape on the ground—noted in the graphic from the early website—are in place.

This tracing, done on tracing paper in pencil, shows a final, clean version of the map with minimal detail. This map, after some additional changes to the south end layout, is most likely to have served as a foundation for the graphic created by Larry and as a guide for early workdays and plantings.

This tracing, done on tracing paper in pencil, shows a final, clean version of the map with minimal detail. This map, after some additional changes to the south end layout, is most likely to have served as a foundation for the graphic created by Larry and as a guide for early workdays and plantings.