I’m a map obsessive. One of my favourite websites at the moment is Where’s The Path? – it lets the user call Ordnance Survey maps and Google Maps up side by side one another (peak time allowing) and then revel in all that glorious data.
I therefore thought it was a good idea – it wasn’t in the end, given the amount of typing involved – to put together a map of this year’s biennial.
There are maps of Biennial already. Liverpool Biennial provide them in paper and PDF form. They’re not interactive, though; a bit of a pain if you want to pull up other data about the area or plan a route. They also only cover the ‘official’ artworks.
Looking online, there is this, a map set up by the Echo newspaper back in August:
View Biennial Festival in a larger map
It’s certainly more comprehensive, showing all the Independents exhibitions as well as the big-name, international exhibits that are part of the main attraction.
What the Echo map boasts in location data, however, it lacks in other info. Some entries provide only a title. It does give details of disabled access, which is helpful. But there are no links.
Given that the map originally appeared embedded on the Echo website, the reason for the lack of links could be the result of trying to create a ‘walled garden’ – that is, not point people away from their own site. Oddly, the Echo doesn’t even link to its own arts coverage in its map-posts, something of a missed opportunity. It makes it less of a walled garden and more of a dead end.
My response to this – although I didn’t begin this until 4 Oct, tardiness on my part – was to put together the map below. As you’ll see, it tries to improve on the Echo map. But it’s still flawed, not least in that I haven’t added the Independents or S.Q.U.A.T. at the time of writing (apologies to them).
Note it is best viewed in a larger map.
View Liverpool Biennial 2010 Map in a larger map
As you can see, there’s no search field, or buttons to toggle exhibitions on or off by category according to taste. And no timeline, to see what’s coming up in future weeks. No comment facility either for budding citizen journalists (although that might be a relief to some). I’m no programmer, that much is clear.
What I’ve tried to do is add hyperlinks to artist profiles, venues, Flickr groups, videos and – importantly – reviews of the shows. The where is easy; hopefully the map will help people to make more of an informed decision about what they want to visit. A few weeks into the festival, perhaps it’s too little, too late. But maybe it will encourage the Echo and Liverpool Biennial to change how they use maps in future.
For me, the task of adding those independent galleries is now at hand, the work of several hours at least. Also, a crash course in PHP/MySQL/KML is probably in order, to get those search functions I talked about operative in time for the next biennial. If you’re a programmer and want to lend a hand, please get in touch.