Pictorial maps are usually designed for tourism products since their look and feel is suited to the ephemeral sense of place we might gain of somewhere we only briefly visit. They allow us to recall a few places and the stylised graphics give us a clue of perhaps the main defining feature or characteristic. They are often strongly stereotypical, and sometimes include elements that border on being offensive. Here, the style was adopted in a similar vein yet under completely different circumstances.
John G. Drury of the 214th Ordnance Battalion US Govt produced a range of maps for military personnel during the Second World War. Called Mem-O-Maps, their purpose was as a souvenir map on which troops could keep trace of their ‘adventures’ and movements. The maps represent an important historical period and integrate pictorial and geographical elements in a unique way. This example, of Europe, includes the use of cartoons and familiar map shapes used as other objects which belie the conditions and experiences that the troops must have faced in reality. They sanitize conflict but, perhaps, provided troops far from home a way of re-casting their experience and imagining themselves as part of something altogether different.
As a memento of their individual battles, the maps encouraged servicemen to note where they “landed or anchored” and when, as well as where they “bivoucked or stationed” while there. Some maps note the airfields as well as headquarters and all vignettes of local culture and people.
These almost whimsical maps are designed to support the creation of personalised geographies. At a time when digital mapping is beginning to experiment with the creation of personalised content that would render the same map in different ways for different users, Mem-O-Maps demonstrate the principle in action. Each map has a basic level of content yet individuals are encouraged to customise them according to what was unequally important to them.