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Spontaneous Nerd-On

March 19, 2009

Oh, I do love an archive, especially one that can suck up my whole day. Apparently, when I used to use the manuscript room in a university, the librarians used to sort of laugh at me because I could be in there for hours without so much as lifting my head, huffing like the big nerd that I am, sometimes nearly choking on the fumes of a couple of vellum maps that had not been cured properly and stunk like nothing you could ever imagine. Have you ever smelled improperly cured vellum, so thick you could see little fuzzy fur follicles and joint marks? Have you ever breathed in the stink of an animal that has been rotting slowly for the last four hundred years? Blech. Anyway, I am a sucker, especially for a tactile archive, even the kind that leaves dust on my hands and makes me break out in a rash. In fact, much the way I am with running — the quality of a run is measured by the thickness of the mud stuck to me — the quality of a visit to an archive can sometimes be measured in the curiosity of the arm-rash I come home with.

So I present an afternoon’s timesink, some archives that won’t make you break out, and won’t put you off your lunch. Except maybe one of them might. If you’re a total wuss.

Boing Boingrecently linked to an archive for something called the Scopitone, about which I know absolutely nothing but about which I would now like to know absolutely everything and now want one for my house. Unfortunately, the archive contents are not online, but you can see the list of films and videos that were available.

The BBC posted this amazing story about the Red Cross archives. Sometimes what you really want is hiding in plain sight. And sometimes what seems like a useless mass of information becomes invaluable. This is what I will tell you when you ask me why I never throw away so much as a piece of paper.

And also, Wired’s blog has a link to a new collection of photos from the Army-run National Museum of Health and Medicine, a bunch of which are up on Flickr. It’s a wonder anyone with injuries survived, and probably a testament to the skill of the medical personnel, the will of the people, and probably a hell of a lot of dumb luck.

If you’re looking to waste an entire day, go here. But I’m warning you: you won’t be coming back. Check out the ones from ‘war brides’. You’ll be seeing Studs links pretty regularly. He’s a bit of a hero ’round these parts.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alison permalink
    March 19, 2009 4:42 pm

    I was looking at those army/medical photos on flickr earlier. I love the ” know your enemy” posters. I was thinking about stitching up some modern versions…

  2. Jane permalink*
    March 19, 2009 10:15 pm

    Yes! Do it!

    Also, I have this postcard (or I used to) that I got at the National Archives:

    Remember boys, beauty may well conceal brains.

    I love the idea that they had identified a ‘major problem’, which is that men thought women were too stupid to understand what they were hearing. If only it were still considered a major problem by the relevant people.

    It would be amazing to think that essential information was leaked to spies simply because men thought chicks were thick. It would be more amazing if 70 years later, fewer men actually believed that chicks are thick. But hey.

    I think some crafty propaganda posters are just what we need.

    Just wait til I get into the online map archives, though. Uh oh.

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