archives

Completely Drowned Out

Completely Drowned Out

"I don’t like when precious things slip through people’s fingers—especially things that seem defenseless or undercelebrated, like old newspapers, but also unheralded people who may have said sensible things at a certain time in history, but who were completely drowned out by other people. Or minor poets whose lives were instructive."

~ Nicholson Baker

Digitally Archiving David

Scanning David

From The Digital Michelangelo Project:

“Recent improvements in laser rangefinder technology, together with algorithms developed at Stanford for combining multiple range and color images, allow us to reliably and accurately digitize the external shape and surface characteristics of many physical objects. Examples include machine parts, cultural artifacts, and design models for the manufacturing, moviemaking, and video game industries.

As an application of this technology, a team of 30 faculty, staff, and students from Stanford University and the University of Washington spent the 1998-99 academic year in Italy scanning the sculptures and architecture of Michelangelo. As a side project, we also scanned 1,163 fragments of the Forma Urbis Romae, a giant marble map of ancient Rome…Our goal is to produce a set of 3D computer models - one for each statue, architectural setting, and map fragment we scanned - and to make these models available to scholars worldwide.”

Scanning David “The motivations behind this project are to advance the technology of 3D scanning, to place this technology in the service of the humanities, and to create a long-term digital archive of some important cultural artifacts.”

“On the left is a photograph of Michelangelo's David. On the right is a computer rendering made from a geometric model. Constructed in December, 1999 at a resolution of 1.0 mm, the model is watertight and contains 4 million polygons. For a brief overview of the steps required to build this model, click here.”

Laser scan of the David

Sisyphus of Mississippi

From For Delta Librarian, The End by J.R. Moehringer, L.A. Times Staff Writer, September 23, 2006:

People call him a librarian, and he surely looks like a librarian, with his sedentary frame, thick eyeglasses, fastidiously trimmed hair and goatee. But, deep down, he feels like something else, something more. He feels like the Sisyphus of Mississippi. He feels like a superhero in one of his beloved comic books, even though he fights the forces of darkness with little more than night classes and meager grants, and he loses more than he wins; 30 years of that would make even Spiderman cranky.

He'll admit this much: He's done with the Delta. Born in Memphis, Tenn., raised in Webb, Miss., he's never lived anywhere else and he's ready for a change. He hates change, clings to his 1986 computer and keeps phone numbers in his checkbook because he refuses to figure out his cellphone, but today he's making the biggest change of all. Leaving the Delta. He's proud of his home, and desperate to escape it, and the contradictions about him only start there. Kind and rude, eloquent and reticent, he's an altruistic loner, a misanthropic do-gooder, a study in inscrutability straight out of Eudora Welty or William Faulkner.

He's a literacy crusader who's hard to read.

He used to love his job. Even back at the start, when he first got hired to drive the county bookmobile. It was 1976, three years after he'd graduated from Delta State, and though he earned peanuts, he felt important, because every time he piloted his cargo of novels and Bibles through the cotton fields, people with no running water and not enough to eat would come racing out to meet him.

Photo gallery

The Bureaucracy of Mass Murder

From Holocaust archive tells many new stories (Arthur Max, Associated Press):

Half a dozen buildings in Bad Arolsen, a German spa town, houses an immense archive of the victims of Nazi persecution. The documents are maintained by the International Tracing Service which is connected to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The fifty million pages of files include “scraps of paper, transport lists, registration books, labor documents, medical and death registers make reference to 17.5 million individuals caught up in the machinery of persecution, displacement, and death."

To operate history's greatest slaughter, the Nazis created a bureaucracy that meticulously recorded the arrest, movement and death of each victim. What documents survived Nazi attempts to destroy them were collected by the Allies to help people find missing relatives. The first documents were sent in 1946 to Bad Arolsen, and the administration was handed over to the Red Cross in 1955."

Anne Frank is listed among the names of Jews picked up from Amsterdam and transported to concentration camps.

“But most of the lives recorded in Bad Arolsen are known to none but their families. They are people like Cornelis Marinus Brouwenstijn, a Dutchman who vanished into the Nazi gulag at age 22 for illegally possessing a radio. In a plain manila envelope are his photo, a wallet, some snapshots, and a naughty typewritten joke about women in the army.”


"Over the years, the International Tracing Service has answered 11 million requests to locate family members or provide certificates supporting pension claims or reparations. It says it has a 56 percent rate of success in tracing the requested name. But the workload has been overwhelming. Two years ago it had a backlog of nearly half a million unanswered queries. Director Blondel says the number was whittled down to 155,000 this summer and will disappear by the spring of 2008. New queries have slowed to just 700 a month."

“Compounding the delay in releasing the files is the cumbrous makeup of the governing committee. Any decision on their future requires the assent of all 11 member nations — Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and the United States.”

Archivist Sabine Stein: "Former inmates and their families want to see some tangible part of their history; they want to tell their stories. What I find most frustrating is that they have all these documents and they are just sitting on them."

Paul Shapiro, of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington:"What victims of these crimes fear the most is that when they disappear — and it's happening very fast now — no one will remember the names of the families they lost.”

PS This post has been conjuring up images of Anselm Kiefer's lead books (Zweistromland, Buch mit Flügeln).