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When Words Meet Maps: Celebrating Meriwether Lewis' Timeless Journal Entry
Mapping a Moment from the Great Expedition
On August 18, 1805, Meriwether Lewis celebrated his birthday while trekking across North America on the Lewis and Clark expedition by picking up a pen.
What Lewis wrote in his journal to commemorate the day became one of the most motivating entries in the collection. The message is hopeful and enduring. It would be an injustice to try to paraphrase the words.
The entry inspired me when I initially read the Journals of Lewis & Clark years ago and continues to inspire to this day, particularly this time of year when I celebrate my own birthday. So inspirational, in fact, that it spawned the idea for the map above three years ago.
Style-wise it is a basic map that is designed to operate as a soft, contextual background for the text. The journal entry is, after all, the subject.
There are a few things that could be improved on the map.
For one, it is difficult to read the source information in the bottom corner. Also, as the expedition followed the Missouri River for the most part, it would be nice to add some reference to that great river and perhaps even the mighty Mississippi River along the eastern edge as well.
There also could be references to Washington D.C., where the expedition was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson after the Louisiana Purchase, and to the native homelands of the indigenous communities encountered by the expedition.
Alas, the goal of the map was simplicity and it is indeed simple. It is designed to serve its intended purpose: As a unique basemap underneath the most-important foreground data.
Happy birthday to it, to Lewis, and to all of you throughout the year. May we all redouble our own efforts to live for mankind.