Ed McCarthy has driven pretty much every road in Boston during his 22 years as an EMT / ambulance driver. Now he’s putting that knowledge to use by making a comprehensive set of maps that show Boston’s development over almost 400 years, and the results are nothing short of amazing.
Though McCarthy’s maps are as detailed as an encyclopedia, he told Wired that his goal is to make the history of Boston accessible to the average Boston resident.
“It seemed to be a hole that needed to be filled,” McCarthy said in his thick Boston accent. “The average guy isn’t going to sit around and read a book about the history of Boston. But, he’s in a bar, he’s got a beer in his hand, and he sees a map of Boston on the wall, he might walk over and start checking it out.”
McCarthy has made 23 maps so far, and has around 25 more to make before the collection is 100% comprehensive. That won’t happen anytime soon, because the combination of planning, research, and designing the maps in Photoshop takes around six months for each map.
McCarthy starts by digging around, using a range of resources, some as authoritative as the Massachusetts Archives and others as unofficial as a local barbershop. “I take all of these different references and I compare them all and overlay them; where they don’t agree, I try to split the difference,” he said. “What I’m coming up with is probably the most accurate map there is.”
Although McCarthy’s mapmaking is still primarily a labor of love, he has slowly begun to sell prints of his maps — around 130 in total, for $100 a pop — and a colleague is helping him set up a website.
“I’m an EMT, I’m not a businessman. But I’m making these and I enjoy making them, and I’m never going to stop until I get the full city done,” he said.
Hopefully increased exposure will give McCarthy even more resources in his mapmaking, so his work can be enjoyed by the widest audience possible.
[nggallery id = 289]