Underground Atlas of the Genesee

Underground Atlas of the Genesee

American Rock Salt--small.jpg

This collection of twelve maps on the Genesee Valley begins with a photograph: a small portion of the operations at American Rock Salt’s mine in Mount Morris, NY. Every day at the nation’s largest salt mine, anywhere between 10,000 and 18,000 tons of crushed minerals emerge from underground and travel by rail throughout the northeast for the task of melting ice upon roads and sidewalks. To think about this local landmark not simply as a commercial enterprise but also as a place—is it at, in,or under Mount Morris?—recalled to us what Rebecca Solnit has written about the complexity of that premise: “What we call places are stable locations with unstable converging forces that cannot be delineated by fences on the ground or borders in the imagination—or by the perimeter of the map. Something is always coming from elsewhere, whether it’s wind, water, immigrants, trade goods, or ideas.” Inspired by Solnit’s observation, primarily horizontal in its orientation, we wondered about the relation between aboveground places in the Genesee Valley and any number of elsewheres located underground.

Some of the GIS maps in this atlas grapple with that relation in a geographic, even geological manner; others depict more figurative underworlds, terrains that are mythical, psychological, social, or historical. Regardless of the subject matter, however, belowground places and their aboveground cultural meanings are reckoned to be realms that form a single, connected ecology. In addition to a Story Map collecting the Underground Atlas, the exhibit here on OpenValley contains sections for each of its dozen maps--featuring in-depth background and galleries of documents not shown in the atlas. For the best screen resolution, it's recommended that you view the story map by clicking on this link.


Mary Auld, Noah Chauvin, Kristen Druse, Kevin Feeley, Jeremy Jackson, Danielle Kahn, Jordan Keane, Natalie Kelsey, Matthew Viglucci, Megan Wong, Elizabeth Argentieri, Ken Cooper. Thanks to: Leah Root, Colleen Garrity, Stephen Tulowiecki.