One independent map-maker who calls Val Marie home, has been working on an exciting and unique project for the past two years. 

Cartographer Alex McPhee has created a wall map of Saskatchewan out of his home in his southwestern corner of the province, with unique details that make it unlike most maps on the market. 

McPhee said he got into this line of work while going to the University of Alberta to study geophysics.  

“I had been making maps on and off since I was a teenager,” he said. “I was doing a lot of it, especially during lectures when I was supposed to be learning about other stuff. Towards the end of my university years, I had the opportunity to actually start freelancing; I started to do some figures for my professors to go into their scientific publications.”

After graduating, McPhee expected his map-making career to be short-lived but found that he was high in demand, as there are very few people that promote themselves as map specialists.  

As an independent cartographer, he often finds himself being contracted for scientific publications, tourism maps and visitor orientation, some work for newspapers, and of course self-publications such as his map of Saskatchewan. 

“What makes my map special is that it's a reference map, which is an old-school word,” he explained. “There's not a lot of reference maps on the market anymore. Most maps that you see are specialized for one purpose; a highway map shows all the highways, a land ownership map shows land ownership, a topographic map shows topography and so on. Most of the maps that are on peoples’ walls are made for one purpose. A reference map is all about being general. It's meant to be an overview of everything in the province at once.” 

As a reference map, an aspect that makes it stand out against most is the fact that every grain elevator that once stood in Saskatchewan, past or present, is represented. 

“I am so fascinated by elevators, so when I was making my map, one thing that I wanted to make sure I got absolutely right was historic grain elevator locations,” he said. “I have gone through old survey documents, I have compiled every abandoned railway in the province, I have gone through the last 100 years of grain registry books from the federal government, and so I am confident to say [that] everywhere a grain elevator ever stood in Saskatchewan is labeled on my map.” 

Folks around Swift Current will notice some other unique details marked on the map such as the research station, wind turbine farms, the airport, and even the old military airstrip.  

McPhee is one of the vendors featured at the Swift Current Museum’s Holiday Market coming up next week, where he will have maps available for purchase.  

“My very first job was in a museum as a tour guide for three years, so I love museums, I love museum people,” he laughed. “When I actually visit museums, I'm kind of a holy terror because I don't like to leave. I have fast contact with the Swift Current Museum, and besides being eager to support them and what they're doing, I'm also really excited to show up.” 

After thousands of hours in the works, the in-province-made map of Saskatchewan is finished and stands at 66 inches tall and 36 inches wide, with incredible individuality that shows the stories of those who call it home.

Those who won't make it out to the Holiday Market next weekend, or just can't wait to get their copy, can purchase the map on McPhee's website, here