Cambridge by any other name

TitleThe People’s Republic of Cambridge
CreatorThe Institute for Infinitely Small Things; Hedberg Maps, Inc.
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See a photo slideshow of the renaming project. Link →

The title on this map asks an important question about the names that appear on our maps and in our landscapes: “Whose history is consecrated and whose is forgotten?” In the New England states, streets, squares, and public buildings tend to be predominantly named after white men who were prominent in public affairs. For instance, Boylston Street, where the Boston Public Library is located, is named after Ward Nicholas Boylston, a merchant who was a financial backer of Harvard University.

This map was created by the Institute for Infinitely Small Things, a group of artists and activists that “conducts creative, participatory research that aims to temporarily transform public spaces dominated by corporate and political agendas.” In 2008, the Institute held a series of renaming events across the city of Cambridge, encouraging people to submit their own names to replace the ones that reflected an older and less inclusive perspective on Cambridge’s history.

The project Las calles de las mujeres explores the gender gap in street names in Spanish-speaking cities. Link →

The reverse side of this map contains an index describing the new names. Some names are idiosyncratic: Chalk Street is renamed to Humpty Dumpty Street because “a Cambridge DPW worker told us to.” Others are more pointed: Massachusetts Avenue is renamed to Prince Hall Boulevard, after a prominent African-American of the Revolutionary War period.


D’Ignazio 2016
Catherine D’Ignazio, “Civic Imagination and a Useless Map,” in Amber Day, ed., DIY Utopia (Rowan and Littlefield, 2016). oclc:1041303666
kanarinka 2011
kanarinka, “The City Formerly Known as Cambridge: a useless map by the Institute for Infinitely Small Things,” in Michael Dear, et al., eds., GeoHumanities: Art, history, and text on the edge of place (Routledge, 2011). oclc:726737706