Biographical mapping

We developed Biographical Mapping as part of the Girlhood and Later Life project, as a way of talking and thinking about earlier experiences.

Biographical maps use a combination of pictures, words and sometimes sounds to represent a particular time in a person’s life. 

How to make a biographical map

‘How to’ guide

It is easy to make a biographical map yourself. You don’t need any special skills or equipment.

Our How to’ guide‘ takes you through all the steps to plan and make your map.

If you want to use the technique as part of your research, or in group work, you might like to read our Guide to Biographical Mapping written with Methods for Change. This guide is longer, with more detail about how and why we developed biographical mapping.

Print-at-home illustrations

Title bannersYou can draw straight onto your map, like we did. Or you can use some of our print-at-home illustrations to get you started.

When you click on the picture it will open at full size so you can print it on A4 paper. Click the ‘Back’ button on your browser to come back to this page.

Or you can download all the illustrations in each section as a pdf.

Title banners and boxes

Title banners and decorative boxes and panels to get you started. With or without our homing pigeon logo!

Download a pdf of all the title banners and boxes below.

Title bannersTitle boxes (and pigeon prints)Boxes or labelsTitle bannersTitle boxes and banners - plainTitle banners

Journeys and travel

Focusing on journeys and travel is a good way to remember interesting details. Everything from regular trips to the local park, a nightmare commute or even holidays.

Download a a pdf of all the journey and travel illustrations below.

Bikes and suitcasePostcardsLuggage labels and suitcaseSignpostsFootsteps and walking illustrationsCars, motorbike, boats, shipsRail and train illustrationsPlanes, air and sea illustrations

Music and memories

Music can take you right back to particular time and place. Use these illustrations to spark musical memories, and add your thoughts to your map. Use shapes and speech bubbles to note a few words about each place.

Download a pdf of all the music and memories illustrations below.

Musical notes, and thought bubblesArrows, oval shapes and speech bubble

Certificates, keys and milestones

Use these for special achievements or prizes, or things you are proud of. You could make a certificate for exams you passed or make one up to celebrate your skills overcoming shyness to try new things, or being a good friend.

Keys can stand for a new home, house or important place. Or you could use them to symbolise independence or freedom.

Download a a pdf of all the certificate, keys and milestone illustrations below.

CertificatesKeys and prize rosette

Weather and seasons

How do weather and the changing seasons change your memories of places and journeys? Do you remember walking back home in the light summer evenings or the rainy dark winter evenings?

Download a a pdf of all the weather and seasons illustrations below.

Weather icons: wind, rain, snow, sunSun, moon, lightning, rain

Arrows and shapes

You can use these to show links between your places, or to represent journeys.

Download a pdf of all the arrow and shapes illustrations below.

Arrows, with pigeons Arrows, without pigeonsArrows, oval shapes and speech bubbleSignpost

Labels and boxes

Labels and boxes so you can sign and date your finished map.

Download a pdf of all the labels and boxes illustrations below.

LabelsBoxes or labels

Further information

We worked with Methods for Change to create a longer Guide to Biographical Mapping. This goes into more detail about the technique. We recommend it especially for people who want to use biographical mapping as part of their research or in group work.

Poster shows step by step process to create a biographical map

Our homing pigeon

Homing pigeon in flight

We use a homing pigeon to symbolise biographical mapping for several reasons. Homing pigeons have a remarkable relationship to place. They travel far but return to home or places that are important to them, just as in biographical mapping, we return to important places from the past in our memories.

Homing pigeons also have a bird’s eye view of the world, seeing wide vistas but also tiny details. Biographical maps also look at past experiences from different angles

And flocks of pigeons flying together create a new visual form, just as a group of people reminiscing together create a collective memory that has a new energy of its own.