Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Too Cool Sites

There are two, and they are too cool...

1. Abandoned America. Fantastic photography of abandoned sites including hospitals, asylums, steel works, commercial, military, etc. Gorgeous photos; the ones of Bethlehem Steel took my breath away. Alas, I don't remember where I came across this link.

2. Insignificant Topographies. Zoom in super close for the history (?) of things you see (and ignore) every day. Link gleaned from the Contemporary Archaeology email list (check it out if you're into the archaeology of the recent past, or happen to be a theory wonk). This big-to-small zoomy thing is a bit clunky, but has a ton of possibilities for presenting sites to the public.

Monday, October 18, 2010

And SHIFT...

That rare, amazing moment when you realize that what you're reading has fundamentally changed how you think about things? Happened to me tonight. It started as casually flipping through an Inter-Library Loan while my class wrote their mid-terms, and ended with me sitting in the classroom after everyone had left to finish the section I was reading, and wishing it wasn't borrowed, because I was itching to annotate. Obviously, not the only person to have that impulse, as there was already marginalia.

The book: Jones, Andrew (2007) Memory and Material Culture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

The passage:
We take for granted the survival into the present of artefacts from past. Indeed, the discipline of archaeology would be impossible without the survival of such artefacts. What is the implication of the durability or ephemerality of past material culture for the reproduction of societies in the past? ... [R]emembrance is a process made apparent to the experiencing subject by the continual and dynamic encounter between the subject and the material world he or she inhabits rather than an abstract and dispassionate transaction between the external world and the mind. This opens up the possibility of thinking about memory differently. Rather than treating memory as a function of the internal processes of the human mind, we might consider memory to be produced through the encounter between people and the material world.
All kinds of good stuff about the dynamic production of memory and meaning between people and things (things take an active role in his approach). I haven't finished reading the book yet (barely started), but I have fireworks going off in my head.

This has happened to me twice more over the last couple of years. Once reading Judith Bennett's History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism and once reading Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. I'd bought a copy of Daly's book, but had borrowed a copy of Bennett's. I hadn't cracked it for more than 5 minutes when I ordered my own copy, lest I vandalize a library copy. My copy is now massively annotated and dog-eared. Interestingly enough, these events have not been isolated incidents, but are linked by a series of people, places, and events. I've been reading crazy-wildly lately on all sorts of topics* but these are the works that set something off.

* All sorts of topics include: the history of death; ritual concealments; fine metal refining; soils for growing tobacco; the prevalence of pig in certain foodways assemblages; colonial distilling; memory; landscapes; the Progressive era; contact period tribal organization in parts of the Mid-Atlantic; public archaeology; critical archaeology; etc. Dude, no wonder I'm tired...

Friday, October 15, 2010

And Breathe...

Clear Water, October 15, 2010

October is whooshing by; hell, the whole year is whooshing by! I've been super busy. Visited Prospective Grad School South Of The Mason-Dixon Line, which went very, very well; got a collaborative paper mostly written (this weekend's job); FINALLY heard back from someone regarding photo permissions for The Book (I've been trying for almost 2 years now); and got to visit OMGSuperCoolSite again. Which is looking increasingly promising, and I'm so excited I could bust.

I will sleep in November sometime. In the mean time, here are some photos from my October Adventures:

Grant's Tomb (The General Grant National Memorial), Riverside Park, New York City, October 2, 2010. According to the National Park Service (of which this is part), it is the largest mausoleum in North America. How could I not go see that? Unfortunately, I could not get inside, as they were closed.

Part of "The Rolling Bench" by Pedro Silva and the Children of New York City, October 2, 2010. This sculpture, done in 1972 to commemorate the 100th birthday of Yellowstone National Park, snakes around the entire perimeter of Grant's Tomb. A very cool public art project; I had to walk around the whole thing and check it out. An odd juxtaposition with Grant's Tomb, though.

Near OMGSuperCoolSite, October 15, 2010.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Out of Towner and Some More Alternate Public History

Home from New York City. On the Subway, after chatting with the woman beside me a little about what trains were running where and when (track maintenance, whee!) ... she says "You don't strike me that you're from the City. Where are you from?" Too funny; 2 minutes of conversation, and she knows I'm not from NYC! Before I could ask her why she said that, our train had pulled into the stop, and she was gone.

Back in February (holy shit, the year has vanished...), I posted a link to Kymerica, a faux public history about a place that doesn't exist... except now it does, because it has sites and site markers and history. There is another, similar project called the I-75 project, that I found out about here, via a post from a Facebook friend (who says FB is useless?). The I-75 project, instigated and carried out by Norm Magnusson, places faux historical markers at rest stops along Interstate 75. The gist is a little different from the Kymerica project, in which an alternative universe is created through memorialization. The I-75 project challenges viewers by memorializing social and political ideas and commentary. I think it's pretty compelling, and I'd love to hang out by one of his installations for a while and see what people's reactions are. Brings up questions about memory, legitimacy, and significance. Does just sticking a historical marker at a place make it significant? Can you create history? If someone reads one of the signs, gets inspired, and then goes out and changes the world, does that then make that place truly significant? Apparently, several people who see the signs are unsure whether they are "official" or not, which makes me think that we have a LOT of public education to do.