Cabinets, containers and memory

Some flickr-powered museum archives: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, the Brooklyn Museum (see Goodbye Coney Island?), the New York Transit Museum, the Field Museum Library, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich (see the PortCities London set, part of the PortCities show), the Otis Historical Archives at the National Museum of Health & Medicine and the San Diego Air & Space Museum, which includes the Pacific Southwest Airlines Archive (a chaotic but enthralling collection that encompasses fashion, catastrophe, Christmas cards, interior design, sport, more fashion, publicity stunts, architectural plans, training material, and yet more fashion. Which was the first airline to photograph a stewardess standing in the nacelle of a jet engine? PSA were masters of the genre).


In contrast to all this visual richness, both the British Museum and the V&A just have pools of user-submitted photography. We recently lamented the dearth of good virtual museums, and how the initial push to digitise collections has foundered over the lack of universal ‘object-viewing’ technology and means of presentation. Those that have embraced web standard systems like Flickr above seem to be doing something right, certainly in terms of ‘getting things out there’ with minimal storage and presentation costs. At the other end of the scale you have this, Museum Secrets, the ultra slick microsite of a new Canadian TV series. There’s some interesting stuff here – rat bombs, for example – but the ratio of content to container is absurdly skewed. The interface is the equivalent of those vast Victorian vitrines of stuffed birds, where the individual object is subsumed to the whole.


Related to the above, A Repository for Bottled Monsters, the weblog of the National Museum of Health and Medicine (nee the Army Medical Museum) in Washington, DC. Similar in scope to Morbid Anatomy / Strange valentines: Some customers literally ‘in love’ with possessions (via me-fi / Alan Taylor’s In Focus, The Atlantic’s smart grab and re-boot of The Big Picture has now launched / a selection of book label collection (via me-fi / the drawings of Dan Slavinsky / Fuck Yeah Kim Gordon / The stigma of Japan’s ‘suicide apartments’.


The procedural city / an inadvertently damning verdict at the end of this review of Exploding the Myths: ‘Perhaps Prince Charles will turn out to be modern architecture’s Ronald Reagan‘ / following Dan Hill’s celebration of Nairn’s London, Rick Poynor takes a look too, focusing especially on the beautiful photographs, and how they capture Nairn’s ‘boundless zest for the endlessly variegated, infinitely complex, profoundly consoling, lived-in fabric of a place.’ / shifted from digital realm to physical, MyTravelMaps, tiny notebooks that take Google place data and present it crisply and relevantly (at designswarm).


“Scalies” update, Rob Walker of Murketing on the blog response to his recent NYT piece on people in architectural scale models. Somewhat circular, referencing it again, but mainly for the opportunity to link People for the Architecture. This labour of love subtracts the architecture and just leaves little scattered clumps of people wandering about a landscape of snowblindness, making calls, reading newspapers, hailing cabs, drinking coffee – all the activities that are apparently central to the regenerative power of architecture.

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