Thesis Relief/Relief Map

It’s been a while! I submitted my thesis to my defence committee on Wednesday, and I now have two weeks to prepare for a move to Upper Canada. I have a number of posts saved in my draft folder, but none that are ready to  be shared yet. So, until I have a little more time to finish those posts, I thought I might share a little excerpt from my thesis with you. Sorry about the super-long paragraphs; that’s thesis writing for you – nothing so short and snappy as the blog style. The excerpt is below the jump.

Perhaps the best example of the prominence of automobile tourism in Nova Scotia by the 1930s was the creation of the Nova Scotia Relief Map at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick Border. Although the relief map was an attraction, it was also a tour guide, put out as a private publication  with an introduction provided by the Minister of Highways, Percy Black. Both the built relief map and the tour guide were owned by the eponymously named company, Nova Scotia Relief Map of Amherst, N.S. (which was owned by two local entrepreneurs). Like most tourism development of the time, it was both entrepreneurial and state-dependent, as it was the initiative of a private citizen, J.T. Rudderham, although it did occasionally receive funds from the provincial government. Although featured conventional advertisements, much of the description was also “advertorial” in tone; it is unclear whether the authors were paid for the in-text advertising (for instance, a recommendation to buy ice cream at a particular drug store during a tour of a town), or were merely healthy boosters for local businesses (in fact providing a tourist service, because how else would they know where to find ice cream?). The Relief Map tour guide was free, and provided highway and town maps, together with descriptions of the possible motor routes, attractions, and tourist amenities.

Information Bureau and Relief Map 1931

The Nova Scotia Relief Map and tourist bureau at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border, 1931. Courtesy NSARM F91 N85 G94 no. 18

The relief map-as-object was built across the road from the provincial government’s Tourist Information Booth. It was 45 meters long (150 ft) and 18 meters wide (60 ft). It resembled bleachers, but instead of seating, featured a map of Nova Scotia, “built up to show the configuration and topography of the province,” including towns and cities, which were constructed out of blocks of wood meant to represent buildings. In addition to the physical geography of the province, the relief map featured main highways painted in red and secondary roads in yellow, with all the numbering and names corresponding to the Department of Highways’ official system. Apparently like moths, “the visiting motorists crossing the border are attracted by the map, and stopping their cars look it over, and from it secure an unusually informative and complete idea of Nova Scotia,” and at nighttime the map was lit by floodlights.[1]

In a number of ways, the Relief Map epitomized the province’s new tourism culture. It was exclusively for the automobile tourist, since it was only accessible to them, situated directly adjacent to the main highway entry point to the province, and intended to be a road map that would help tourists visualize the journey ahead. The map presented the main attractions of Nova Scotia as twofold:  on one hand, the province had scenery and climate, and on the other, it had a good road system. Tourists were encouraged to visit the province for “its bold headlands and rolling intervals; its ideal Summer climate; roadways that cannot be excelled anywhere; courteous traffic officers who are on duty to aid and protect the tourist; roadways winding along the rivers and lakes for miles and miles.”[2] Nova Scotia’s roads were sure to provide safety and scenery for the motoring family.  It embodied one key landscape definition that was suggested in the introduction to this thesis – the idea that landscape is a capitalist construct that turns both the view and the land into an object to be consumed. Tourists were supposed to be able to use the Relief Map to “secure an unusually informative and complete idea of Nova Scotia.”[3] The rich man’s landscape painting which cemented, to him, his “right” to the land, had been replaced by a goliath diorama for the masses. By making the new terrain to come a landscape already laid out and familiar to them, the Relief Map allowed tourists to feel a sort of ownership over the land that they would soon be exploring. It had the secondary effect of taking away any possible threat tourists might feel in facing the unknown – making Nova Scotia “undiscovered” and yet altogether safe.


[1] Nova Scotia Relief Map, 1930, 9.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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5 Responses to “Thesis Relief/Relief Map”


  1. 1 Maude-E. Lambert 11/30/2009 at 6:17 PM

    Hi Sarah,

    I found the mention of your MA Thesis on Niche Website and I will really like to read it. I work on automobility, tourism and nature in Quebec and Ontario. I preparing a Ph.D. Thesis. Sorry for passing by your blog, but I can’t find your email address on Niche Website.

    Many Thanks,
    Maude-Emmanuelle Lambert
    Université de Montréal

    • 2 bluenosegardener 12/03/2009 at 12:22 AM

      Hi Maude-E.,

      Sorry for the delay in approving your comment. I have been quite busy with end-of-term projects, but will send you an email in the next day or two.

  2. 3 Marcus Brauer 12/23/2013 at 10:46 PM

    I came across an earlier version of the Nova Scotia Relief Map Directory which predates all available reference materiel. It is undated, however it is before 1929. It has a postcard in it of the actual relief map too!

  3. 4 Gwen Strickland-Rudderham 06/11/2016 at 2:46 PM

    Would like to know more about JT Rudderham. I think he is my husbands great uncle.


  1. 1 Touring Nova Scotia in 1929 | Carry On Trackback on 07/23/2015 at 9:36 AM

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