A brief history of The Melbourne Map project

In 1985 I returned from backpacking around Europe, full of enthusiasm and bright ideas about the world.

On my travels I collected a few maps and the ones I liked most were adorned with illustrations of buildings – these made it easier as a tourist to navigate around a city.

I searched for an illustrated map of Melbourne and the only one I could find was a magnificent etching of the city by AC Cooke and Samuel Calvert which had been published in 1880!

1880 Melbourne by AC Cooke & Samuel Calvert

In a quest to learn more about business I enrolled in a business course at Monash University  and then applied the idea of producing an illustrated map of Melbourne to the principles of building a business plan. Becoming obsessed with the Melbourne Map idea the search for an artist began and as luck would have it a chance meeting with Deborah Young.

Deborah was enthusiastic about Melbourne so we teamed up and over the next two years worked at nights and on weekends in a converted garage at the back of my mum’s house.  Dianne Clarke housed us, fed us and encouraged us every step of the way.  Without her support the project quite literally would never have happened.

Melinda Clarke & Deborah Young (1990)

Photo taken in the Studio (garage) at the back of Di’s house

The map project began in earnest in 1987. Research photos were taken on an SLR camera (the old 35mm kind), then film developed at considerable expense at the local pharmacy. Deborah would then use these as reference for the illustration. Over 7,500 photos were taken for the project, with around 2,000 from many hot air balloon flights over the city – courtesy of Chris Dewhirst from Balloon Sunrise who was the only pilot flying over Melbourne’s CBD in the late 80’s.

After two years we realised the project was going to take forever to finish so a $50,000 overdraft was secured with the ANZ bank (at 22.5% interest!). This enabled Deborah to leave her employment and work full time on the map, completing the original line drawing in late 1990.

By then over $80,000 had been spent on the project and looking back it was blind faith and a whole lot of encouragement from friends and family that kept us going as we took the map to market.

A Black & White limited edition was printed on beautiful rag paper and we began the challenging task of letting the world know the map was available for sale.  After an interview on radio 3AW and 3LO we soon learned the power of media.

1990 Melbourne Map Limited Edition

Enough sales were made to meet the overdraft interest payments but it was obvious that people wanted a colour version.

New illustrators, Heather Potter and Mark Jackson came on board and updated the line drawing – removing the bi-plane and banner and making a few building changes. The line drawing was then screen printed same size as the original (an edition of 25 were printed by Larry Rawlings) and then over a period of 6 months Heather and Mark hand coloured one of these prints.

On Friday 7 February, 1992 The Age newspaper did a story on the map and printed a greyscale copy on the inside of the front cover of their newspaper. I happily agreed to this reprint on the proviso that they included our address, phone number and price of the map.   Suddenly the cloud of the overdraft lifted as Melburnians posted us cheques and we filled those orders with glee.  Finally after 7 years of planning and execution there was validation that Melburnians loved this drawing as much as we did.

Here is a story that the television program Healthy Wealthy & Wise produced on the Melbourne Map project back in 1992.  Click on the image for the You Tube video

A jigsaw was produced in 1993 and was equally as popular – self published and printed in Melbourne.   10,000 families experienced the joy of putting the 1,000 pieces together.

There are so many stories in-between, I feel like I could write a book, and I just may one day.

The Melbourne Map was produced in different forms until about 1997 when I moved on to other life adventures and stored all the map memorabilia and remaining stock into a storage shed.

In early 2015 a chain of events led to the re-invigoration of the project and here we are again creating an even more detailed illustration of the worlds most liveable city.  And thanks to the joy of technology and social media, we are glad to have you on board………..

In 2018 we published the new edition of The Melbourne Map in Black & White, followed in 2019 with the colour version.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melinda@themelbournemap.com.au