A Song of Fog and Smoke

Lately the mornings in Pittsburgh have been chilly and lovely with fog.  Seeing the nearby hills obscured by fog makes me wonder what it must have been like to live here when things were instead obscured by smoke from industry and coal burning.  Luckily, my favorite of digital collections, Historic Pittsburgh, has digitized images of Smoke Control Lantern Slides from the 1940’s and 1950’s, before and after smoke control ordinances were passed in Pittsburgh:

Carnegie Museum of Art Collection of Photographs, 1894-1958, Carnegie Museum of Art. http://digital.library.pitt.edu/images/pittsburgh/cma.html
Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940s-1950s, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh http://digital.library.pitt.edu/images/pittsburgh/smokecontrol.html
Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940s-1950s. Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh. http://digital.library.pitt.edu/images/pittsburgh/smokecontrol.html

And nowadays…

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Polish Hill

Image from Google Street View
Image from Google Street View
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Then and Now.

The Post-Gazette has a great interactive site where you can see photos of Pittsburgh past right next to those from Pittsburgh present: http://multimedia.post-gazette.com/ThenNow/.

Photo by George Kukic

Please forgive the title of this post; I couldn’t resist. 🙂


Visualizing the LCSH: May 2011

150 Ice cream trucks [May Subd Geog] [sp2002009439]
* 550 BT Food trucks
* 550 BT Trucks CANCEL

2 dogs with their paws on the window of a dog-oriented ice cream truck

150 Mixed media painting [May Subd Geog] [sp 85086321]
* 550 BT Mixed media (Art)

abstract mixed media flower painting by Ger Van Elk
Bouquet Anvers by Ger Van Elk

150 Nineteen ninety‑three, A.D. [Not Subd Geog] [sp2011001971]
450 UF 1993 A.D. 450 UF Nineteen hundred ninety‑three, A.D.
450 UF Year nineteen ninety‑fthree, A.D.
550 BT Nineteen nineties

Windows 3.11 screenshot
Windows 3.11 screenshot, from Wikipedia

150 Islands—Macedonia [sp2011001898]

Picture of golem grad island seen from the water

It seems there’s only one island in Macedonia, so it probably slipped through the cracks until now…but in that case perhaps there should be a new heading that reads “Island — Macedonia”?

thumbnail for solemone on behance
click me!
150 Rainbow in art CANCEL
150 Rainbows in art [Not Subd Geog] [sp 85111207]
450 UF Rainbow in art [EARLIER FORM OF HEADING]

150 Steel sculpture, Chinese [May Subd Geog] [sp2011001979]
450 UF Chinese steel sculpture

150 Tiles in art [Not Subd Geog] [sp2011001832]

Persian Warriors from Ishtar Gate, Pergamon Museum
Persian Warriors from Ishtar Gate, Pergamon Museum (wikipedia image)

150 Trails—Iceland [sp2011001987]

Iceland trail and haunted areas map
click to enlarge

150 War horses in literature [Not Subd Geog] [sp2011001805]

150 Children—Bolivia [sp2011001984]

Albumen prints of Aymara indigenous people from Bolivia
from the Church collection at Brown University Library

Pittsburgh, lord god, Pittsburgh

(post title from this song)

I’ve been answering an abnormal number of reference questions about Pittsburgh history lately, especially regarding photographs of old Pittsburgh. I think there’s a class that has to find an old photo and then go to the same place in the city and take a new one. Much like what Walter C. Kidney did in his thoroughly enjoyable book, Pittsburgh Then and Now. The lovely and forever engaging (to me, at least) Historic Pittsburgh image collection is still growing, with many images having been added to the Pittsburgh City Photographer collection this year.

And then, today, I found out about how the Dallmeyer Building downtown has been restored to it’s original facade from the 1800s. There’s an interesting thread about it, and about historic building restoration in Pittsburgh, on city-data.

See also:
Pittsburgh Photographic Archive – Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania Photographic Archives
Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation
Historic Photos of Pittsburgh by Miriam Meislik
Photos & Scenes of Pittsburgh recommended by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh


dream project!

http://retrographer.org/ – “Dane, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University studying design and human-computer interaction, has created the Retrographer Project designed to geotag historical images of Pittsburgh. “Geotagging” adds latitude and longitude data to an historical image so that its geographic location can be identified on a map.” It does seem like it still needs work, but I’m glad someone is doing this.

Not only am I mildly obsessed with Pittsburgh history,  I also recently started geocaching.  Ever since I read this book I’ve been wishing that someone would make an online version that would juxtapose Pittsburgh of today with Pittsburgh of the 1970s and the 1800s. Well, “Retrographer” seems like just the sort of thing I was imagining.

I’ve never done any “geotagging”, but I have recently become hooked on geocaching.  I think it’s fun because it gives you extra incentive to explore your city and its surroundings, and finding the caches can be tricky, and thus rewarding.  I already liked walking in the woods, now I can just find hidden treasure while I do it. And right when my bff and I started doing this, I was reading about the history of Schenley Park, my favorite park in Pittsburgh.  I immediately started imagining caches I could create that would share some of the history of the locale where the cache was hidden.  I like the thought of creating collages out of historical photographs and text, so the contents of the cache would be like a mini-artistic homage to what was.

Another recently publicized project that combines Pittsburgh history with archival material and geography is Public Record, a “multimedia documentary project that Justin Hopper [turned] into a [walking tour of downtown] you can take with your iPhone, cell phone or MP3 player” (Post-Gazette).

While I’m really into these geo-projects that make use of technology like mp3s and digital maps, I also really like the simplicity, slowness, and tactility (yes that is a word, i just found out) involved in creating a physical cache and finding a physical cache using only a GPS reader as your technology.  While it’s cool to use digital media to experience the history of places, there’s something ironic about using a form as intangibile as digital media to recapture the most ephemeral thing of all – history! I’m not implying that the creators of the aforementioned digital projects are unaware of this tension or that they’re not exploiting it (in the positive artistic sense).  I think, though, that when I create homages to history I want them to be graspable (apparently this too is a word).  I want people to be able to stand with something – even if it’s just an image – in their mittens and say “This was here, but now it’s not anymore.”

ice skating on panther hollow pond
ice skating on Panther Hollow pond in Schenley Park


So much global positioning to do, so little time.

Desktop wallpapers #3

I guess it could be somewhat offensive to the photographers that I’m recommending their images as desktop wallpaper.  But it just means I think it’s a great photo!  If I had money and owned a house I would recommend photographs I like as “things to buy prints of and frame” but until then my computers have the only walls I’m allowed to wallpaper.   Even so, I will change the name of these posts from now on.

red maple leaves with blurry bg
"autumn leaves" by user Nossirom on sxc.hu
orange and yellow squiggly lights on dark background
"light" by user hoener on sxc.hu
starry sky over mt. rainier
"A Night at Mt. Rainier" by user Cap'n Surly on Flickr

The stars in that last image are really amazing.  I recommend other photos in “Cap’n Surly’s” stream as well. Very dramatic! There’s also some silhouettes of horses, which turn out to be a monument that I’ve never heard of despite living in Washington and visiting various points along the Columbia river.  I need to see this someday.

desktop wallpapers #1

i’m always really excited when it’s time to pick a new desktop wallpaper. so i figured why not share in case someone else wants to enjoy? i frequently use the stock photo site sxc.hu because i like the hierarchical categories they offer for browsing. sometimes i use flickr, of course. both of these images came from stock.xchng though.

August wallpaper part 1 (when i was still into summer)

three colors of tile form a wave pattern
by user Ale_Paiva

August wallpaper part 2 (when i am eagerly anticipating fall)

golden light in ancient window alcoves
by user bitan310

note: if you sign up for a free account with stock.xchng you can get large image files that you can use in ways that don’t violate the posted restrictions. like for personal enjoyment.

Visualizing the LCSH monster update: Jan-Feb 2010

150 Animal jumping [May Subd Geog] [sp 85005205]
* 450 UF Animal leaping
* 450 UF Jumping behavior in animals
* 450 UF Leaping behavior in animals

Humans jumping animals: “Gaito Loka becomes a man during his initiation ritual, sometimes called cattle jumping. Male friends and relatives hold the animals in place as the jumper runs along their backs. Afterward, the young Hamar man must adhere to a strict diet including blood, milk, and honey until he marries.” – National Geographic

151 Woodward Avenue (Mich.) [sp2010001688]
451 UF M‑1 (Mich.)
451 UF Michigan Highway 1 (Mich.)
550 BT Roads—Michigan

Detroit image from www.oldcitypics.com

150 Boring sponges [May Subd Geog] [sp2010001908]
450 UF Bioeroding sponges
450 UF Excavating sponges
550 BT Marine borers
550 BT Sponges

150 Guitar and synthesizer music [May Subd Geog] [sp2010000529]
450 UF Synthesizer and guitar music

150 Spiders in the Koran [sp2010001811]

150 Ninja in popular culture [May Subd Geog] [sp2010001722]
550 BT Popular culture
150 Chinatowns in motion pictures [Not Subd Geog] [sp2010001122]
550 BT Motion pictures

150 Remorse in art [Not Subd Geog] [sp2010001322]

photo by Emre Ucar in “Paint it with blur” Flickr pool

150 Stop‑motion animation films [Not Subd Geog] [sp2010000786]
450 UF Object animation films
450 UF Stop‑action animation films
450 UF Stop‑motion animated films
450 UF Stop‑motion films
550 BT Animated films
vegetables and Star Wars to encourage us to buy organic!

150 History painting [May Subd Geog] [sp2008007183]

680 Here are entered works on narrative painting that depicts several figures enacting a scene usually drawn from classical history or mythology, or from the Bible.
550 BT Painting

150  Bats—Mortality   [May Subd Geog]   [sp2009010998]
* 550    RT White‑nose syndrome

150 Buildings—War damage [May Subd Geog] [sp 85145172]
* 550 RT Architecture and war

photograph by Donald Weber from “The Lost War” story, via the Black Snapper photography magazine archives

150  Drinking of alcoholic beverages—Marketing  [sp2010000413]

150  Enemies in art   [Not Subd Geog]   [sp2009010830]

150  Gravity in art   [Not Subd Geog]   [sp2009010556]

from Kaat Van Tiggel’s Flickr photostream

150  Traffic accidents in motion pictures [Not Subd Geog]   [sp2009009535]
550    BT Motion pictures

Weird, overdue, or especially unique headings:

150 Art objects in art [Not Subd Geog] [sp2010001816]

150 Bananas in popular culture [May Subd Geog] CHANGE GEOG [sp2006007645]
* 680 Here are entered works on the representation of bananas in popular culture.

150 Gifted Hawaiian children [May Subd Geog] [sp2010001320]
450 UF Gifted children, Hawaiian
450 UF Hawaiian gifted children
550 BT Gifted children—United States
550 BT Hawaiian children

150 Office buildings—Wales [May Subd Geog] [sp2010001151]

150 Gelatin—Flavor and odor [May Subd Geog] [sp2010000403]
450 UF Gelatin—Odor
550 BT Flavor
550 BT Odors

150 Ruins in motion pictures [Not Subd Geog] [sp2009007969]
* 550 BT Motion pictures

150 Communication in hairdressing [May Subd Geog] [sp2010000047]
550 BT Hairdressing

150 Embassy buildings—Decoration [May Subd Geog] [sp2009011095]
053 NK2195.E43
550 BT Decoration and ornament

150 Sex—Anthropological aspects [May Subd Geog] [sp2010000055]
550 BT Anthropology