Deep Maps: West Cork Costal Cultures

The Challenge

Connecting cultural history and marine biological research, Deep Maps fosters ongoing stewardship of Cork’s coast and Ireland’s maritime heritage. The project visualises the coastline in innovative ways and offers a comprehensive approach to understanding place. Deep Maps engages community stakeholders to identify environmental priorities and share their knowledge. Past and present are interwoven as literature, history, science and culture provide new ways of thinking about our endangered marine environment. The project maps the cultural history of the coastline in order to communicate a deeper knowledge of places, history, people and stories.

The Research

Both intensive and extensive, Deep Maps investigates the biological, cultural and historical contexts of the south west coast of Ireland from 1700 to 1920, exploring the maritime environment found along the arc of Cork’s Roaring Water Bay, from Clonakilty to Bantry Bay. In bringing literary traditions together with environmental sciences and digital technologies, Deep Maps demonstrates how coastal sites are reservoirs of personal, cultural and biological data. Knowledge flows from and to community stakeholders, with the goal of increasing public awareness of the rich but intangible heritage of the region. This innovative model of mapping results in layered storytelling that effectively expresses complex accounts of space and time. As such, Deep Maps departs from literal cartography to bring history, culture and biology together in original visualisations that can be accessed digitally.

“By connecting specialised scientific understandings of the marine environment with the stories, ideas and feelings associated with our coasts, we can help to create a new future for our seas.”
– Professor Claire Connolly, Principal Investigator


The Impact

Deep Maps responds to needs emerging from both humanities and STEM research: in the case of the former, the environmental humanities have posed urgent questions about the scope and scale of human interactions with the environment as represented in literature and other texts; while in the case of marine biology, scientists are increasingly aware of the need to deepen and enrich their understanding of coastal environments via a more nuanced sense of the histories and cultures of these storied places. This transdisciplinary approach draws upon:
A scientific literature review;

  • Workshops with community stakeholders;
  • Sketches, photographs, poems, newspapers, letters and other historical artefacts; and
  • Collection and analysis of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data.

The project uses digital media to visualise and connect different kinds of knowledge about the coastline, and establishes dialogue with diverse audiences. This includes:

  • A weekly blog series which has reached audiences in Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Russia, Canada, Germany, France and Italy
  • Integrated social media campaigns via Facebook, Twitter, Storify and Instagram;
  • An open access Deep Maps website, incorporating interactive story maps, timelines and apps; and
    An exhibition within the Glucksman Gallery on the UCC campus, from August to November 2017, which garners public feedback by taking visitors on a journey from traditional cartography through objects of cultural value and scientific inquiry.

One of the risks associated with any digital project is the rapidly-changing digital environment. With longevity in mind, the Deep Maps team worked with UCC Library’s
Research and Digital Services to develop a records management strategy that draws upon best practice guidelines from the Digital Repository of Ireland. Deep Maps assets are provided in preservation-friendly formats so that the research remains readily accessible.
Other engagement includes:

  • Artwork, storytelling and surveys with primary school students and teachers at Coomhola National School, Bantry; Rath National School, Baltimore; and the Educate Together National School, Cork City;
  • Academic presentations in Dingle, Co. Kerry; Cardiff, Wales; Sesimbra, Portugal; South Bend, Indiana, United States; Cork City, Co. Cork; and other locations; 
  • New collaborations with Skibbereen Heritage Centre; West Cork College; St Peter’s Church; Cork Nature Network; and others;

Deep Maps develops and uses novel transdisciplinary research techniques that bridge arts, humanities, science and technology. The project relies on the exchange of public tacit knowledge and resources through ongoing engagement, public events and open access repositories. It has stimulated public discourse on biodiversity, conservation, climate change, fisheries, aquaculture, pollution, policy and legislation. Deep Maps has attracted funding to support five research assistants and one postdoctoral researcher, impacting Ireland’s research ecosystem.

For More Information
This project is funded by the Irish Research Council New Horizons Award and is led by Professor Claire Connolly (School of English) and Dr Rob McAllen (School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences). See:


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