Parish map


Tool No. 4: Parish map 

Parish map

Description of the tool

Parish maps are cartographic representations or any other similar item in which the community can identify itself through the heritage (Leslie, 2006).

With a Parish Map the inhabitants of a place can represent their heritage, landscape, and knowledge in which they recognize themselves and that they wish to transmit to future generations. Parish Maps highlight the way in which a community sees, perceives, and values its landscape, its memories, its transformations, its current reality and its wishes for the future.

In Puglia Region this kind of map was used for the new “PPTR” (the Regional Landscape Planning). In homogeneous Italian areas, Parish Maps became tools both for planning and for local development. In Italy more than 50 ecomuseums developed one or more parish maps. Some of them produced web versions of the maps. Few of them used similar tools called “landscape maps”.

This is usually one of the first programmed actions in the phase of planning of Italian ecomuseums. Recently the tool has also been used by other institutions such as parks and in local development processes.

A parish map documents the present and helps people understand the past; it also helps the community to plan a long-term agenda aimed at improving and enhancing places and landscape. In the map, you can find the wishes of the community (Clifford, Maggi, Murtas, 2006).

Guidelines to apply the tool

Many Italian maps followed these steps:

  1. Chose one or more goals (heritage celebration and recording, action plan planification, strength of sense of place etc.)
  2. record all the elements of cultural and natural living heritage (tangible and intangible) through:
    • Working groups of adults;
    • School children educational paths;
    • Population surveys;
    • Multimedia maps;
    • photo contest
  3. chose the elements to be included in the map according to cultural and social criteria; the result is a participatory inventory of the heritage
  4. Local artists or geographers design a draft of the map with the support of the population
  5. The final map is approved by the population
  6. The map is printed and distributed to citizens and/or published into the websites
  7. use the map (for education, urban planification, ecomuseums actions planification). To use the map for planification is often useful a digital version of the map through a GIS system
  8. update the map. Ecomuseums’ Italian parish maps don’t end with their publication, because those maps are seen as participatory processes, permanent and updatable “archives”, of the tangible and intangible heritage of a territory. To update and implement parish map contents, some ecomuseums created multimedia maps. They contain the follow-ups related to the heritage included in parish maps. Other ecomuseums designed new maps

A critical evaluation of such a participation tool raises two questions: can this type of map help the community to represent itself, or is there a risk of becoming part of a stereotypical landscape? And isn’t there also the risk of hiding the elements of conflict present in the territory, only by highlighting the pleasant aspects? (Castiglioni, 2013).

In many Italian contexts parish maps enabled and inspired people of different generations and roles, including municipal administrators, to discover, see, use and modify the living cultural heritage and landscape. Furthermore, participatory maps, containing a shared vision of the future of the landscape, have inspired permanent changes in the landscape.

Support materials

Some web sites (in italian) reported case studies, support material and guidelines: shows the atlas of the more than 50 eco-museums that have created a community map with the link to see the results. The process of creating a map of a community map (Parco dei Mulini) is described on the website of the Parabiago ecomuseum. shows some italian maps a course about parish maps (in italian) a website about some parish maps


Clifford S., King A. (a cura di): From place to PLACE: maps and Parish Maps, Common Ground, London, 1996.
Castiglioni B., Ferrario V., cartografiar les percepcions socials: els paisatges tendencials, in AA.VV. Reptes en la cartografia del paisatge. Dinamiques territorials i valor intangibles, , Observatori del Paisatge de Catalunya, 2013
Dal Santo R., CAN PARISH MAPS INSPIRE FUTURE? in “Atas do IV EIEMC/4 Encontro Internacional de Ecomuseus e Museus Comunitários”, 12-16, junho 2012, Belém, Brasil; Coordenação Geral: Maria Terezinha Resende Martins. – Belém : Ecomuseu da Amazônia, 2012.
Leslie, K.: A sense of place, West Sussex Parish Maps, Chichester, 2006.


Lisa Pigozzi, Nunzia Borrelli, Raul dal Santo, Silvia Dossena, Lucia Vignati 

Scientific Coordinators