Spring 2016 Public Lecture Series
Emory University, Atlanta
All public lectures will begin at 5.30 PM and take place in the Woodruff Library Jones Room.
George Philip LeBourdais, Stanford University
Tracing The Arctic Regions: Mapping Nineteenth-Century Photographs of Greenland
Ice was a subject of great fascination for nineteenth-century Americans. Probed by intrepid explorers, depicted in dramatic light by painters, and embraced by Transcendentalist philosophers as a potent ethical symbol, ice had an aesthetic all its own, one that crystallized issues at the core of American art and culture in a turbulent historical period.
This lecture defines and explores this aesthetics of ice through the work of William Bradford (1823-1892), named in the nineteenth century America’s greatest artist of the Arctic. It is the first chapter of five in a dissertation, each investigating single copy of the rare, luxurious book, The Arctic Regions, which combines the first photographs of western Greenland with narrative text by Bradford.
Entitled “Stillness and Movement,” the talk explores the geography of the specific copy of The Arctic Regions now at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts, home of Bradford’s Quaker heritage and the heart of American maritime culture in the nineteenth-century. With revealing forays into the work Henry David Thoreau, who sought out Bradford’s studio in 1857 and mused on ice extensively, and Herman Melville, whose research for Moby Dick occurred on the Acushnet, a whaling ship owned by Bradford’s family, the presentation will also trace the course of the 1869 expedition that generated the book in the first place.
This geographic approach foregrounds not only how Bradford brought the Arctic home to America, but also how the representation of ice contributed to the understanding of ice and the Arctic that we have inherited today.
Nicholas Bauch, Stanford University
Enchanting the Desert: Visualizing the Production of Space at the Grand Canyon
Enchanting the Desert is a digital monograph based on a single historical document: a slideshow made by commercial photographer Henry G. Peabody between 1899-1930 at the Grand Canyon of Arizona. The project reconstructs Peabody’s slideshow in an interactive medium, allowing readers to place the slides in a greater geographical context. The photographs are used to open up the expanse of the Grand Canyon itself, laying bare the European-American project of remaking this space, focusing on specific territories within the vast region to tell the story in a spatially organized narrative. When readers encounter this work, they can expect to uncover a pattern language that describes a new cultural becoming of this great landscape. Another layer on the palimpsest of meanings that have accrued here for nearly 10,000 years, the Euro-American experience of the Grand Canyon is yet an altogether new one. Using the established medium of the website application, Enchanting the Desert introduces a genre of scholarship: the born-digital interactive monograph. The medium allows for technical leaps impossible in a print publication. The genre takes advantage of these leaps by performing spatial narrative in an inventive new way.
Niall Atkinson, University of Chicago
Seeing Sound: Mapping Florentine Soundscapes
In Canto VIII of the Purgatorio, Dante describes a moment in which all Christians of his age were united by a sound that mourned the passing of another day. But this ring from afar, this “squilla da lontano,” could also pierce the heart of travelers with a certain tenderness, uniting them in a common bond with the inhabitants of a far off city. What Dante heard was the evening bell, part of a complex system of acoustic exchanges produced by bells and towers that demarcated both the temporal and the spatial jurisdictions of the pre-modern European city. A city’s soundscape was as much an expression of its identity as it was a medium through which social relations were forged and negotiated through both ritual and transgressive practices. And since the sound of an evening bell determined the limits of a city’s legal control of a territory and its symbolic presence within the psychological geography of its inhabitants, mapping such networks of sound can shed a great deal of light upon the mutual effects produced by buildings and bodies on each other. This study focuses on Renaissance Florence, taking inspiration from Dante’s expression of the relationship between the sound of a bell, the evocation of a social topography, and the maintenance of a collective memory embedded with the architectural present.
S. Wright Kennedy, Rice University
The Potential of Historical GIS and Spatial Analysis in the Humanities
This presentation discusses the opportunities and limitations of the emerging historical geographic information systems (HGIS) approach to humanities research. HGIS is a flexible tool that can provide new perspectives and insights on a wide range of humanities topics by unlocking a large body of untapped spatial sources, essentially opening new windows through which we can explore and analyze the past. Specifically, this presentation compares and contrasts four geo-humanities projects. These projects include using HGIS to:
- study the workforce distributions and routes of the streetcar lines in late-nineteenth century Atlanta;
- map mortality and environmental conditions in the eighteenth-century transatlantic slave trade;
- identify the origins and track the spread of the 1878 yellow fever epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee;
- and, develop a GIS and open-access webmap that contains spatial layers and ephemera tracing the 450-year evolution of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Through these projects, this presentation illustrates the variety of sources, scales, disciplinary focuses, critical versus conceptual constructions, and analytical techniques involved in HGIS research.
Pamela Fletcher, Bowdoin College
Mapping the Commercial Gallery System in Nineteenth-Century London
Over the course of the nineteenth century, the commercial art gallery came to dominate European and American art markets, transforming the experiences of artists, viewers, collectors, and dealers. In this talk, Fletcher explores how digital mapping can help explain significant shifts in the art market and exhibition culture, and raise new questions about the experience and expectations of art for a wide public.
Ellen Prokop, Frick Art Reference Library
A Modern Old Master? Using Historical GIS to Chart El Greco's Influence on the French Avant-Garde
Many specialists have claimed that El Greco (1541–1614) served as an important source of inspiration for several seminal masters of French nineteenth-century painting, including Paul Cézanne (1839–1906). Yet there is little evidence that these avant-garde artists had the opportunity to study El Greco’s work first-hand. This lecture will outline this scholarly debate and demonstrate how geospatial technologies and analytical techniques offer a compelling means to explore El Greco’s contested legacy and discover new perspectives on the enduring issue of his influence.