Watch “The Visionary in the Marsh,” lecture at Benaki Museum on blod.gr

On September 15, 2018 I had the extraordinary opportunity of giving a talk at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece, where I discussed the 1960 plans of architect Constantinos Doxiadis for Eastwick, Philadelphia, featuring some ‘cameo’ appearances from Robert Kennedy and Kevin Bacon. You can watch the talk here, courtesy the Bodossakis Foundation. Many thanks to Simon Richards and Mantha Zarmakoupi of the Delos Network for inviting me and allowing me to speak on this subject, one that has occupied my globetrotting research for the past three years.

The Delos Network is an initiative sponsored by the UK Arts & Humanities Council, with academic support from University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, and the University of Pennsylvania. This was the second of three conferences to discuss the work of global architect and urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis (1913-1975), the first such conferences in over a decade.

Thanks to the Delos Network and the University of Nevada, Reno, for financially supporting my visit.

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Read “The elusive star of Vergina” on Medium

Last June, I had the opportunity to visit Vergina, a small village in Northern Greece that is home to the tomb of Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father. It was a tremendous experience, full of the power and splendor of ancient Macedonia. In terms of the difficulty in navigating Greece’s public transit options, however, it amounted to a modern odyssey. The perfect exp

To read my travelogue of my visit to Vergina, full of awe, frustration, and some witty observations, check it out on Medium:

“The elusive star of Vergina: To visit the tomb of Alexander the Great’s father, a modern odyssey”

More summer travel memoirs forthcoming on Medium. If you’re looking for a hint—next up will be along the lines of “Coming into the country with ‘Coming into the Country’.”

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Photo of fields of Vergina by Harrison Blackman.

Earth science history exhibition featured at Princeton Research Day on May 10, 2018

On May 10, 2018, I had the pleasure of presenting a poster entitled “Rocks all the way down: The earthshaking history of Princeton mineralogy” at the 3rd annual Princeton Research Day event.

Charting the history of Princeton mineral and earth science from the early American republic to today, “Rocks all the way down” showcases how mineralogy both formed the foundation and ongoing continuity of earth science at Princeton. And given Princeton’s place in several scientific revolutions over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, it is a fundamentally important story that explains how and why we came to better understand the natural world.

The effort is part of a project funded by the Princeton University Department of Geosciences, to be eventually published in article form.

At “PRD,” it was wonderful to connect with so many members of the Princeton community in discussing the University’s rich history in the earth sciences.

You can view the poster below; featured photo is courtesy of Georgette Chalker.

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Read “‘Taos 2010’ dreams revisited” in The Taos News

In 1989, The Taos News asked residents to predict what Taos would be like 20 years into the future. Nearly three decades later, I asked them how it all turned out—and what they now hope for in the years to come. What emerges is a startling portrait of a community’s transformation over the years, and a new vision of what may be on the way.

Read my feature story in The Taos News, an all-too-brief sketch of a unique community in the Southwest.

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Image courtesy of the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

 

Read “The ‘First’ Winter Olympics: How Chamonix 1924 iced out a rival Nordic competition” on Medium

The Olympic Games.

Out of all international sporting events, those three words possess the most fanfare. They evoke tradition, history—and the symbolic flame.

But if the Olympics are inspired from an ancient Greek tradition, then how did the Winter Games—featuring hockey, skating and curling—come to be?

The answer is complicated, and it’s the subject of my latest essay on Medium: “The ‘First’ Winter Olympics: How Chamonix 1924 iced out a rival Nordic competition.” In it, you can find out about the origins of the Olympics, the Olympics’ early rivalry with the Nordic Games, and of course, the ‘first’ Winter Games.

To read more of my stories on Medium, please look at my Medium profile. You can also see an extensive list of my published stories on the “clips” page.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Image: Poster for 1901 Nordic Games. (Author unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Read “The Museum of the Bible is an intellectual travesty” on Medium

The Museum of the Bible is Washington, D.C.’s newest museum. Behind the glittering exterior, however, is the troubling and controversial narrative that the museum promotes.

To save you the trouble, I visited the Museum of the Bible for myself. You can vicariously experience my somewhat alarming visit by reading my new opinion essay on Medium. In it, I take you through the full museum experience, highlighting the problematic assumptions and strange editorial choices at every turn. Thanks for reading!

Public domain image courtesy Pixabay. All rights reserved.

Read “Princeton’s Lost Museum: Arnold Guyot’s E.M. Museum” in the Princeton Historical Review

Within the Princeton University community, it is relatively well-known that Nassau Hall, the university’s flagship building, was once the site of a Revolutionary War battle and served as the capitol building of the United States. It is far less recognized as the former home of one of the first natural science museums in America, much less the second museum in the world to ever display a dinosaur skeleton.

In the middle of the 19th century, the Swiss-American geographer Arnold Guyot—one of the discoverers of the last Ice Age—began a lengthy and influential tenure as a director of the geology and geography departments at the then-named College of New Jersey (renamed Princeton in 1896).

At Princeton, he also became the first curator of the E. M. Museum of Geology and Archaeology, which was housed in Nassau Hall. Before the E.M. Museum, most natural science museums in the United States were eclectic collections of curios without any organization, much less an overarching method or worldview. Guyot, however, designed his museum so that it could demonstrate to a visitor ‘the history of the world at a glance’—in a manner similar to the presentation of his image-centric textbook, Physical Geography, published in 1873

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An illustration of naturalist Alexander von Humboldt from the first pages of Arnold Guyot’s popular 1873 textbook, Physical Geography. (Courtesy Google Books & Princeton University Library)

This museum housed a surprising array of artifacts—from Japanese swords to classical statues, from precious minerals to portraits of the Founding Fathers. And yet, the exhibits maintained a clear organization, one that emphasized a Manifest Destiny-view of the universe.

To learn more about this curious institution, read my history article, “Princeton’s Lost Museum: Arnold Guyot’s E.M. Museum and the Great Juncture of American Natural History Museums in the Late 19th Century” in the Fall 2017 issue of the Princeton Historical Review, available in PDF format. Follow this link and find the article on pages 22-50.

The featured photo of this post is from the Mudd Manuscript Library, and whose citation follows: Pach Brothers, E.M. Museum of Geology and Archaeology, Photograph, ca. 1886, Box MP42, Item 1256, Princeton University Library. Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library.