About Us: Deep Maps Kerry

Corca Dhuibhne / Deep Mapping / Dingle Peninsula Project


The Sacred Heart University campus in Dingle (SHU in Dingle), County Kerry, Ireland, has a mission to offer education to third-level students and to partner with An Díseart Centre of Irish Spirituality and Culture :: Ionad Spioradáltachta agus Cultúir Ghaelaigh, and with the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium/ Mara Beo, as well as with the town and peninsula of Dingle as a member of the community. SHU in Dingle has also been in partnership with several Irish universities, including Munster Technological University, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin, University of Galway, and Queen’s University Belfast collaborating on workshops, conferences, and publications.

To this end, SHU in Dingle has created several research projects that look at the natural and built environment of the Dingle peninsula and look for important ways to promote sustainability. For several years it has monitored weather and sampled soils to determine patterns of climate change. It has also co-sponsored various conferences and workshops that offer educational opportunities students and scholars. See the list of conferences and workshops on the www.shuindingle.com site.

This project seeks to record the geographical, environmental, historical and cultural places on the Dingle peninsula. The idea for this project arose after the discovery in April 2021 of a Bronze Age burial tomb, which led to the realization that there is still much to discover and record.

The Dingle peninsula can be considered an outdoor museum, with its Bronze Age tombs, medieval chapels, oratories and monasteries, and old stone cottages, as well as spectacular mountains, hills, ocean coves and cliffs. Yet in an ever-changing environment, preservation and sustainability are key to its future, and this can only come from a deeper knowledge of all that it contains.

This new project, Chorca Dhuibhne / Deep Mapping / Dingle Peninsula, uses the term ‘deep mapping’ as a guiding methodology. The new methodology is one of the newest approaches in environmental humanities that seeks to understand the totality of human cultural heritage as rooted in a place.

Literary theory has advanced a geocritical method referred to as “literary cartography” that studies places described in literature by several authors as well as the effects of literary representations of a given space. In this way writers map their worlds, exposing a rich topography that includes physical features and local history and culture. This investigation has led to the deep mapping that goes beyond the physical characteristics and includes memories and oral history, folklore, archeology, weather, and science, with a goal of establishing a multi-layered record of a specific place in relation to its global connections.

Nessa Cronin, in an article “Deep Mapping Communities in the West of Ireland,” has highlighted some important considerations. She underlines that deep mapping has “…more contemporary concerns about how people inhabit their ‘home- places’ and indeed how communities both inherit and create their cartography of belonging through everyday social and cultural practices. Community mapping is an act of expressing and making tangible that which is tacit and often remains intangible, inaudible, and invisible to people ‘outside’ of the immediate community or locale. While such work may appear to be ‘just’ an expression of a local community mapping exercise, it may also incorporate strands of the global, whether through the expression of shared concerns about the environmental degradation of local water systems or mapping projects that acknowledge migrant spaces (whether ‘old’ or ‘new’) within existing local communities. Such various (and variable) ground truthings offered both method and material for their own deep mapping of place.” [1]

Some common elements of deep mapping are:

  1. A multi-disciplinary approach, especially humanities and science. According to Alison Calder, it is a type of “vertical travel writing” interweaving “autobiography, archaeology, stories, memories, folklore, traces, reportage, weather, interviews, natural history, science, and intuition.”[2] Add to this music, architecture, food, clothing, folk medicine, religious rituals, fishing, and farming. This recognizes that spaces are experienced differently by a multitude of people both at one time and over many years.
  2. The meaning and lore of place is central. In Irish Dinnseanchas [variations, Dindsenchas] traditionally meant the lore of place and associated stories, although in contemporary usage it can mean topography. Deep mapping explores the connection between the vast number of people who have inhabited a geographical place and have “spatially framed identities and aspirations out of imagination and memory.”[3] This is captured in Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘In Gallarus Oratory’, “You can still feel the community pack … Founded there like heroes in a barrow/ They sought themselves in the eye of their King/ Under the black weight of their own breathing. And how he smiled on them as out they came, The sea a censer, and the grass a flame.”[4]
  3. It also involves mapping that is both vertical in time and horizontal (overlapping, conflicting, multiple meanings and stories) at any one time, in a way that allows many voices (spatial narratives) to be heard. Part of the science will be using GIS (geographic information system) mapping. “Within a deep map, we can develop the event streams that permit us to see the confluence of actions and evidence; we can use path markers or version trackers to allow us (and others) to trace our explorations; and we can contribute new information that strengthens or subverts our argument, which is the goal of any exploration.”[5]
  4. The final goal is a multimedia and multilayered presentation in print, web design, video, music, dance, and visual art, to be a resource and guide for students, scholars, and the general public.

[1] Nessa Cronin, in an article “Deep Mapping Communities in the West of Ireland,” in Thinking Continental Book Subtitle: Writing the Planet One Place at a Time, eds. Tom Lynch, Susan Naramore Maher, Drucilla Wall, O. Alan Weltzien. University of Nebraska Press, 2017, 47.

[2] Alison Calder. “The wilderness plot, the deep map, and Sharon Butala’s changing prairie.” Essays on Canadian Writing, 77 (Sept. 3):164-185.

[3] David J. Bodenhamer, John Corrigan, Trevor M. Harris, Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives (Indiana UP, 2015).

[4] Seamus Heaney, “In Gallarus Oratory,” in Door Into The Dark (1969).

[5] Bodenhamer, Corrigan, Harris, Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives.