The
Historical Atlas
of Lowell

Interactive historical maps raising challenging questions about Lowell, Massachusetts

What We Do

The Historical Atlas of Lowell maps the economic, political, social, and cultural history of Lowell, Massachusetts. It presents interactive "deep maps" — maps which tell complex stories and pose challenging questions about the development of the spaces in which we live. The first map is Following the Money: How Lowell Made Boston, 1850, and the HAL welcomes collaborations on future maps.

Current Work

The first map is Following the Money: How Lowell Made Boston, 1850, and the HAL welcomes collaborations on future maps.

Some Background on Lowell

The city of Lowell, Massachusetts, once the fishing grounds of Native American peoples, became in the nineteenth century the birthplace of the American industrial revolution. The city produced textiles and technologies, and it cultivated new ways of organizing labor and capital. In the twentieth century, Lowell saw reversals of fortune as well as renewal of its aims. The textile factories left for the South, and the city charted a new post-industiral course. All along, for two centuries, Lowell has been the destination of wave after wave of immigration: Irish, Franco-Canandian, Greek, Portuguese, Cambodian, African. The city is the birthplace and, in many novels and poems, the muse of Jack Kerouac, author of the American classic On The Road. It is today an innovation hub — culutural, industrial, educational — for central Massachusetts.

Why It Matters

But The Historical Atlas of Lowell is not simply about the city of Lowell. In addition to presenting Lowell in granual detail, it seeks to show how Lowell is connected to its surroundings — and not just nearby Boston or New England, but its connections, for instance, to the  U.S. South (through cotton), Africa (through the slavery that produced the cotton), Franco-Canada, and Cambodia (both through immigration). Lowell is presented as a global city. The HAL also takes Lowell as a model city, one that might have a great deal to teach about the dominant models of urbanization, development, immigration, industrialization, and post-industrialization around the world.

Teaching Opportunities

The HAL is also dedicated to teaching. Each historical map not only introduces users to historical facts, but also challenges users with ethical questions about the way places are shaped and organized. These are questions about race and gender, money and labor, power and failure. Each map comes with a "reading guide" to help users pose these questions. The teaching mission is also fulfilled in another way. The HAL serves as a platform for future maps, and it welcomes participation of students and others in the researching and development of those maps. There is a world to map in Lowell.