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Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

Walking Through Time

Walking Through Time screenshot, via ITunes

In my continuing effort to keep abreast of urban history-themed apps for mobile devices, today I’m featuring a new IPhone app developed by a team from the Edinburgh College of Art and University of Edinburgh, Walking Through Time. It syncs historical maps of Edinburgh with the current, GPS-enabled map on your IPhone so you can navigate both geographically and chronologically as you stroll around Edinburgh. You can set the application to follow maps from a range of different time periods, 19th and 20th century. You can also toggle back and forth between old and new, or customize the transparency level to view both maps at the same time. A set of walking tours gives the application some structure if you don’t want to wander aimlessly. (more…)

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In July of this year Asian Longhorned Beetles were found in six red maple trees in a wooded area about a mile from my house in Boston’s Roslindale neighborhood. Asian Longhorned Beetles bore into hardwood trees like birch, maple, and elm, eventually killing them if left untreated. Authorities consequently set up a quarantine area that includes my street. This means no one is allowed to transport firewood or yard waste out of the area, and an inspection is being conducted within the quarantine zone. There is a particular concern for the trees of Arnold Arboretum, which lies within the quarantine area.

In 2008 there was an Asian Longhorned Beetle outbreak in Worcester, Massachusetts. The city was forced to cut down 25,000 trees. Here’s a before and after comparison:

Worcester Street before, by Kenneth R. Law

Worcester Street before, by Kenneth R. Law

Worcester Street after, by Kenneth R. Law

Worcester Street after, by Kenneth R. Law

With old trees, as with historic buildings and artifacts, sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. (more…)

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I’ve seen two interesting open air history exhibitions this spring, a permanent (or at least semi-permanent) one in Alexanderplatz, Berlin about the fall of the Berlin Wall:

And a temporary (one month) one in the Kamppi plaza in Helsinki about Warsaw Pact countries and their efforts to shed Communism during the Soviet Union’s final years:

I watched a steady stream of people checking out both of these exhibitions. With the Kamppi exhibition, I think one of the reasons people stopped to investigate was that it presented an unexpected change to a public space that was otherwise very familiar. In other words, if you walk through Kamppi plaza every day on your commute and suddenly the landscape changes, you want to know why. I’m interested in the idea of inserting some public history into public spaces for just a month or two so that it becomes an event, as opposed to those permanent historic markers on buildings that start to blend into the background and almost become invisible over time. There’s also the concept of it being right in the middle of your path, instead of having to make an active choice to walk into a museum to see an exhibition. I’m wondering if this would be a good thing to try in Boston, perhaps at Quincy Market, or along the Esplanade?

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Locals and Tourists #14 (GTWA #7): Boston, Eric Fischer

I just heard about the work of Eric Fischer, a programmer in the San Francisco area who has created a series of maps of major cities showing where people take photographs. Because the public photo-sharing websites Flickr and Picasa enable geo-tagging of the images people upload, Fischer was able to create maps that show the hot-spots—the places that are photographed by many people every day. This is interesting for my research because it could help city museums visualize the urban spaces that are most important to the public—the places that possess a high amount of social capital, the ones we want to remember.

As if that weren’t enough, Fischer took it one step further and used the timestamps on photos to divide them into those taken by tourists and those taken by locals.   (more…)

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City Branding

A tagline on the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau website reads: “America’s birthplace. History’s showcase. The past is present in Boston.” Meanwhile, Frommers.com calls Boston “relentlessly historic.” And Fodors.com says “to Bostonians, living in a city that blends yesterday and today is just another day in their beloved Beantown.” History is the core of Boston’s brand.

Consequently, I have found it interesting to move to a city that doesn’t particularly consider itself historic. Turku maybe, but not Helsinki. (more…)

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In mid-March I spent a week in Berlin, at a conference for Fulbright fellows from all over Europe. In between sessions I did some exploring: the city museum, the Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, the Jewish Museum, Checkpoint Charlie, and a strange, edutainment site called “The Story of Berlin.”

What that week showed me is that for Berlin history, there is only one game in town: the Wall. (more…)

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The Helsinki City Museum

While I am here I am working informally with the Helsinki City Museum, exchanging information and ideas. So far I have visited three of their ten sites, met with the senior staff, and toured two storage facilities. I will write much more about their work in coming days, but for now, a want to give a few first impressions.

I can’t help but start with the fact that the Helsinki City Museum is considerably larger than its Boston counterpart, in every way: (more…)

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