View and Download Nearly 60,000 Maps from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

By reasons of parenting, I’ve become well acquainted with a song—perhaps you know it?— called “Fifty Nifty United States,” taught to schoolchildren as a geographical mnemonic device. The lyrics mention that “each individual state contributes a quality that is great.” What are some great qualities of, say, Delaware, New Mexico, or South Dakota? We aren’t told. Hey, it’s enough that a five or six-year-old can remember “shout ‘em, scout ‘em, tell all about ‘em” before rattling off an alphabetical list of “ev’ry state in the good old U.S.A.”

But if you hail from the U.S., you can enumerate many contributions from a few nifty states, whether culinary delights, historical events, writers, artists, sports heroes, etc. And most everyone’s got stories about visiting natural wonders, hiking mountain trails, fording rivers, gazing upon breathtaking vistas.

We may be occasional tourists, travel enthusiasts, or experts, but whatever our level of experience in the country, it’s probably kid stuff compared to the work of the scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Established by Congress in 1879, this august body has documented U.S. lands and waters for 125 years, gathering an incredible amount of detailed information as “the nation’s largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency.” Thanks to the Libre Map Project, the general public can view and download nearly 60,000 of those topographical maps, from all fifty states, and nearly every region within each of those states. See Colorado’s Pike National Forest and surrounding environs, at the top, for example, created from aerial photographs taken in 1950. Above, see a map of San Francisco, compiled in 1956, then revised in 1993 and further edited in 1996.

And just above, the devastating Kīlauea Volcano, in a map compiled from aerial photos taken in 1954 and 1961. (See the USGS site for the latest info about the ongoing eruption there.) Below, a nifty map of New York City, created “by photogrammetric methods from aerial photographs taken [in] 1954 and planetable surveys [in] 1955. Revised from aerial photographs taken [in] 1966.” Google maps may be more current, but these USGS maps have an aura of scientific authority around them, evidence of painstaking surveys, checked and rechecked over the decades by hundreds of pairs of hands and eyes.

Browsing the archive can be a challenge, since the maps are catalogued by coordinates rather than place names, but you can enter the names of specific locations in the search field. Also, be advised, the maps “are best used with global positioning software,” the archive tells visitors. Nonetheless, you can click on the first download option for “Multi Page Processed TIFF” to pull up a huge, downloadable image. Enter the archive here and get to scouting.

Related Content:

Download 67,000 Historic Maps (in High Resolution) from the Wonderful David Rumsey Map Collection

National Geographic Has Digitized Its Collection of 6,000+ Vintage Maps: See a Curated Selection of Maps Published Between 1888 and Today

The Illustrated Medicinal Plant Map of the United States of America (1932): Download It in High Resolution

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Bill Gates Names 5 Books You Should Read This Summer

It's something of a tradition. Every summer, philanthropist/Microsoft founder Bill Gates recommends five books to read during the slow summer months. This year's list, he tells us, wrestles with some big questions: "What makes a genius tick? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where does humanity come from, and where are we headed?"

And now, without no further ado, here's Bill's list for 2018. The text below is his, not mine:

Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson. I think Leonardo was one of the most fascinating people ever. Although today he’s best known as a painter, Leonardo had an absurdly wide range of interests, from human anatomy to the theater. Isaacson does the best job I’ve seen of pulling together the different strands of Leonardo’s life and explaining what made him so exceptional. A worthy follow-up to Isaacson’s great biographies of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. [Read his blog post on the book here.]

Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler. When Bowler, a professor at Duke Divinity School, is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, she sets out to understand why it happened. Is it a test of her character? The result is a heartbreaking, surprisingly funny memoir about faith and coming to grips with your own mortality. [Read his blog post on the book here.]

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about Abraham Lincoln, but this novel made me rethink parts of his life. It blends historical facts from the Civil War with fantastical elements—it’s basically a long conversation among 166 ghosts, including Lincoln’s deceased son. I got new insight into the way Lincoln must have been crushed by the weight of both grief and responsibility. This is one of those fascinating, ambiguous books you’ll want to discuss with a friend when you’re done. [Read his blog post on this book here.]

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, by David Christian. David created my favorite course of all time, Big History. It tells the story of the universe from the big bang to today’s complex societies, weaving together insights and evidence from various disciplines into a single narrative. If you haven’t taken Big History yet, Origin Story is a great introduction. If you have, it’s a great refresher. Either way, the book will leave you with a greater appreciation of humanity’s place in the universe. [Read his blog post on this book here.]

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund. I’ve been recommending this book since the day it came out. Hans, the brilliant global-health lecturer who died last year, gives you a breakthrough way of understanding basic truths about the world—how life is getting better, and where the world still needs to improve. And he weaves in unforgettable anecdotes from his life. It’s a fitting final word from a brilliant man, and one of the best books I’ve ever read. [Read his blog post on this book here.]

You can find Gate's reading lists from previous summers in the Relateds below.

via Gates Notes

Related Content:

Bill Gates Recommends Five Books for Summer 2017

5 Books Bill Gates Wants You to Read This Summer (2016)

Bill Gates, Book Critic, Names His Top 5 Books of 2015

Summer 2014

Summer 2013

Discover David Lynch’s Bizarre & Minimalist Comic Strip, The Angriest Dog in the World (1983-1992)

Most David Lynch fans discover him through his films. But those of us who read alternative weekly newspapers in their 1980s and 90s heyday may well have first encountered his work in another medium entirely: the comic strip. Like many of the best-known examples of the form, Lynch's comic strip stars an animal, specifically a dog, but a dog "so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis." That text, which prepared readers for a reading experience some way from Marmaduke, introduced each and every edition of The Angriest Dog in the World, which ran between 1983 and 1992.

During that entire time, the strip's artwork never changed either: four panels in which the titular dog strains against a rope staked down in a suburban backyard, in the last of which night has fallen. The sole variation came in the word bubbles that occasionally emerged from the window of the house, presumably representing the voice of the dog's owners.

You can see a few examples at Lynchnet and also on this blog. "If everything is real... then nothing is real as well," it says one week. On another: "It must be clear to even the non-mathematician that the things in this world just don't add up to beans." Or, in a nod to the region of The Angriest Dog in the World's home paper the LA Reader: "Bill... who is this San Andreas? I can't believe it's all his fault."

"At some point David Lynch called up the editor at the time, James Vowell, and said, ‘Hi, I'd like to do a comic strip for you,’" says former Reader editor Richard Gehr as quoted by John F. Kelly at Spooky Comics. Every week thereafter, Lynch would phone the Reader to dictate the text of the latest strip. "We would give it to somebody in the production department and they would White Out the panels from the week before and write in a new, quote/unquote… gag.” The clip from The Incredibly Strange Film Show's 1990 episode on Lynch above shows the evolution of the process: someone, one of Lynch's assistants or perhaps Lynch himself, would regularly slip under the Reader's office door an envelope containing word balloons written and ready to paste into the strip. (Dangerous Minds finds an interview where Vowell describes another production method altogether, involving wax paper.)

Lynch came up with the words, but what about the images? "I assume he drew the first iteration," says Gehr as quoted by Kelly. "I don’t even know if the second and third [panels] were hand drawn. Those could have been mimeographed too or something." The style does bear a resemblance to that of the town map Lynch drew to pitch Twin Peaks to ABC. The attentive fan can also find a host of other connections between The Angriest Dog in the World and Lynch's other work. That factory in the background, for instance, looks like a place he'd photograph, or even a setting of Eraserhead, during whose frustrating years-long shoot he came up with the strip's concept in the first place. "I had tremendous anger," says Lynch in David Breskin's book Inner Views. "And I think when I began meditating, one of the first things that left was a great chunk of that." If only the Angriest Dog in the World could have found it in himself to do the same.

via Dangerous Minds

Related Content:

David Lynch Draws a Map of Twin Peaks (to Help Pitch the Show to ABC)

The Paintings of Filmmaker/Visual Artist David Lynch

David Lynch’s Photographs of Old Factories

“The Art of David Lynch”— How Rene Magritte, Edward Hopper & Francis Bacon Influenced David Lynch’s Cinematic Vision

David Lynch’s New ‘Crazy Clown Time’ Video: Intense Psychotic Backyard Craziness (NSFW)

The Incredibly Strange Film Show: Revisit 1980s Documentaries on David Lynch, John Waters, Alejandro Jodorowsky & Other Filmmakers

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Ups & Downs of Ancient Rome’s Economy–All 1,900 Years of It–Get Documented by Pollution Traces Found in Greenland’s Ice

When we see stories pop up involving scientific findings in glacier ice, we might brace for unpleasant environmental news about the future. But a paper published just recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences instead reveals fascinating findings about the distant past—the history of ancient Rome between 1100 B.C.E. to 800 C.E. Historians know this 1,900-year period through archaeological and literary evidence. Now climate scientists have provided a treasury of new data to help substantiate or revise scholarly understandings of Rome’s economic rises and falls, by measuring the stratifications of lead pollution in a roughly 400-meter ice core from Greenland.

Why lead? “It’s a proxy for coin production,” says Seth Bernard, professor of ancient history at the University of Toronto. Roman currency, the denarius, was made from silver, mined primarily on the Iberian Peninsula. “But these mines didn’t excavate pure silver,” notes Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic. “Instead, they unearthed an ore of silver, lead, and copper that had to be smelted into silver. This process filled the air with lead pollution,” which eventually made its way on air currents to Greenland, where “storms deposited lead-tainted snow or sleet over the Arctic island.” New layers formed upon the old, each one preserved for posterity.

In the mid-1990s, scientists began drilling Greenland’s ice sheet in the North Greenland Ice core Project (NGRIP). At the time, a team attempted a similar analysis on the lead levels and their correspondence to ancient coinage, “which used a similar but rudimentary technique,” Meyer writes. But this study only drew from 18 data points. By contrast, the new research “made 25,000 different measurements of the ice core.” Improved technology has refined the measurement process, allowing researchers to detect “the presence of 35 different elements and chemicals at once,” and to tie their observations to specific years, or fairly close to it, anyway. The chart above shows the fluctuations in lead emissions over the almost 2000-year span.

One of the study’s authors, Joseph McConnell, estimates the margin of error as within one or two years. “That’s pretty good,” he says, “a lot better than what archaeologists are used to, I can tell you that.” This allows the team of climate scientists, archaeologists, and historians to match their observations about lead levels to known historical events. As The New York Times reports, “lead emissions rose in periods of peace and prosperity, such as the Pax Romana, which ran from 27 BC to 180 A.D. and dropped during the civil wars that preceded the Pax and the rise of the emperor Augustus. There were also dramatic drops that coincided with the Antonine plague of 165-180 A.D., thought to have been small pox, and the Cyprian plague, cause uncertain, of 250-270 A.D.”

The data, notes The Economist, “provide a new window onto the workings of the ancient economy…. Not all of the lead trapped in the glacier comes from silver minding, but much of it does,” and scientists can make informed guesses about just how much. Many unanswered questions remain. “What we’d love to have is a document that says Rome had a state monetary policy,” says Bernard. The empire's specific economic policies are largely a mystery, but the ice core samples provide a wealth of new evidence for the increase and decrease in currency production, and ever-more refined technologies will allow for even more data to emerge from the pollutants trapped in glacial ice in the near future.

via The Atlantic

Related Content:  

How Did the Romans Make Concrete That Lasts Longer Than Modern Concrete? The Mystery Finally Solved

The Rise & Fall of the Romans: Every Year Shown in a Timelapse Map Animation (753 BC -1479 AD)

A Huge Scale Model of Ancient Rome at Its Architectural Peak, Originally Commissioned by Mussolini

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

It’s the End of the World as We Know It: The Apocalypse Gets Visualized in an Inventive Map from 1486

When will the world end?

We can find serious scientific answers to this question, depending on what we mean by “world” and “end.” If civilization as we currently know it, climate scientists’ worst-case scenario points toward somewhere around 2100 as the beginning of the end. (New York magazine points out that it “probably won’t kill all of us”). It’s possible, but not inevitable.

If we mean the end of all life on earth, the forecast looks quite a bit rosier: we’ve probably got about a billion years, writes astrophysicist Jillian Scudder, before the sun becomes “hot enough to boil our oceans.” Still not a cheerful thought, but perhaps many more creatures will take after the tardigrade by then. That’s not even to mention nuclear war or the epidemics, zombie and otherwise, that could take us out.

But of course, for a not inconsiderable number of people—including a few currently occupying key positions of power in the U.S.—the question of the world’s end has nothing to do with science at all but with eschatology, that branch of theological thought concerned with the Apocalypse.

Theological thinkers have written about the Apocalypse for hundreds of years, and the world's end was frequently perceived as just around the corner for many of the same reasons modern secular people feel apocalyptic dread: disease, natural disasters, wars, rumors of wars, imperial power struggles, uncomfortably shifting demographics….

Take 15th-century Europe, when “the Apocalypse weighed heavily on the minds of the people,” as Betsy Mason and Greg Miller write at the National Geographic blog All Over the Map: “Plagues were rampant. The once-great capital of the Roman empire, Constantinople, had fallen to the Turks. Surely, the end was nigh.”

While a niche publishing market in the nascent print era produced “dozens of printed works” describing the “coming reckoning in gory detail… one long-forgotten manuscript depicts the Apocalypse in a very different way—through maps.” As you can see here, these maps convey the unfolding of worse-to-worser scenarios in a number of visual registers: temporal, symbolic, geographic, thematic, etc.

At the top, the nested triangles depict the rise of the Antichrist between the years 1570 and 1600. The central concern for this author was the supposed global threat of Islam. Thus, the next map, its “T” shape a common Medieval world map device, shows the world before the Apocalypse, the text around it explaining that “Islam is on the rise from 639 to 1514.”

Then, we have a circular map with five swords pointing at the edges of the known world, illustrating the author’s contention that Islamic armies would reach the edges of the earth. The other maps depict the “four horns of the Antichrist,” above, Judgement Day, below, (the black eye at the bottom is the “black abyss that leads to hell”), and, further down, a diagram describing “the relative diameters of Earth and Hell."

Made in Lübeck, Germany sometime between 1486 and 1488, the manuscript is written in Latin, “but it’s not as scholarly as other contemporary manuscripts,” write Mason and Miller, “and the penmanship is fairly poor.” Historian of cartography Chet Van Duzer explains that “it’s aimed at the cultural elite, but not the pinnacle of the cultural elite.”

Pointing out the obvious, Van Duzer says, “there’s no way to escape it, this work is very anti-Islamic,” a widespread sentiment in medieval Europe, when the “clash of civilizations” narrative spread its roots deep in certain strains of Western thinking. This particular text also “includes a section on astrological medicine and a treatise on geography that’s remarkably ahead of its time.”

Van Duzer and Ilya Dines have studied the rare manuscript for its insightful passages on geography and cartography and published their research in a book titled Apocalyptic Cartography. For all its theological alarmism, the manuscript is surprisingly thoughtful when it comes to analyzing its own formal properties and perspectives.

Mason and Miller note that “the author outlines an essentially modern understanding of thematic maps as a means to illustrate characteristics of the people or political organization of different regions.” As Van Duzer puts it, “this is one of the most amazing passages, to have someone from the 15th century telling you their ideas about what maps can do.” This marks the work, he claims in the introduction to Apocalyptic Cartography, as that "of one of the most original cartographers of the period."

The Apocalypse Map now resides at the Huntington Library in Los Angeles.

via Nat Geo

Related Content:

Ancient Maps that Changed the World: See World Maps from Ancient Greece, Babylon, Rome, and the Islamic World

In 1704, Isaac Newton Predicts the World Will End in 2060

Download 67,000 Historic Maps (in High Resolution) from the Wonderful David Rumsey Map Collection

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

How to Write in Cuneiform, the Oldest Writing System in the World: A Short, Charming Introduction

Teaching child visitors how to write their names using an unfamiliar or antique alphabet is a favorite activity of museum educators, but Dr. Irving Finkel, a cuneiform expert who specializes in ancient Mesopotamian medicine and magic, has grander designs.

His employer, the British Museum, has over 130,000 tablets spanning Mesopotamia’s Early Dynastic period to the Neo-Babylonian Empire “just waiting for young scholars to come devote themselves to (the) monkish work” of deciphering them.

Writing one’s name might well prove to be a gateway, and Dr. Finkel has a vested interest in lining up some new recruits.

The museum’s Department of the Middle East has an open access policy, with a study room where researchers can get up close and personal with a vast collection of cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia and surrounding regions.

But let’s not put the ox before the cart.

As the extremely personable Dr. Finkel shows Matt Gray and Tom Scott of Matt and Tom’s Park Bench, above, cuneiform consists of three components—upright, horizontal and diagonal—made by pressing the edge of a reed stylus, or popsicle stick if you prefer, into a clay tablet.

The mechanical process seems fairly easy to get the hang of, but mastering the oldest writing system in the world will take you around six years of dedicated study. Like Japan’s kanji alphabet, the oldest writing system in the world is syllabic. Properly written out, these syllables join up into a flowing calligraphy that your average, educated Babylonian would be able to read at a glance.

Even if you have no plans to rustle up a popsicle stick and some Play-Doh, it’s worth sticking with the video to the end to hear Dr. Finkel tell how a chance encounter with some naturally occurring cuneiform inspired him to write a horror novel, which is now available for purchase, following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Begin your cuneiform studies with Irving Finkel’s Cuneiform: Ancient Scripts.

via Mental Floss

Related Content:

You Could Soon Be Able to Text with 2,000 Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Hear The Epic of Gilgamesh Read in its Original Ancient Language, Akkadian

Hear the “Seikilos Epitaph,” the Oldest Complete Song in the World: An Inspiring Tune from 100 BC

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight premieres in June at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Art of Sci-Fi Book Covers: From the Fantastical 1920s to the Psychedelic 1960s & Beyond

If you've never seen Gentlemen Broncos, the little-seen third feature by the Napoleon Dynamite-making husband-and-wife team Jared and Jerusha Hess, I highly recommend it. You must, though, enjoy the peculiar Hess sense of humor, a blend of the almost objectively detached and the heartily sophomoric fixed upon the preoccupations of deeply unfashionable sections of working-class America. In Gentlemen Broncos it makes itself felt immediately, even before the film's story of a young aspiring science fiction writer in small-town Utah begins, with a tour de force opening credits sequence made up of homages to the pulpiest sci-fi book covers of, if not recent decades, then at least semi-recent decades.

The style of these cover images, though risible, no doubt look rich with associations to anyone who's spent even small part of their lives reading mass-market sci-fi novels. To see more than a few higher examples, watch "The Art of Sci-Fi Book Covers," the Nerdwriter video essay above that digs into the history of that enormously inventive yet seldom seriously considered artistic subfield.

Its begins with the world's first science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories (an online archive of which we've previously featured here on Open Culture) and its pieces of fantastical, eye-catching cover art by Austria-Hungary-born illustrator Frank R. Paul. In the mid-1920s, says the Nerdwriter, "these covers were probably among the strangest art that the average American ever got to see."

It would get stranger. The Nerdwriter follows the development of sci-fi cover art from the heyday of the Paul-illustrated Amazing Stories to the introduction of mass-market paperback books in the late 1930s to Penguin's experimentation with existing works of modern art in the 1960s to the commissioning of new, even more bizarre and evocative works by all manner of publishers (some of them sci-fi specialists) thereafter. "You can walk into any used book store anywhere and get five of these old pulp books for a dollar each," the Nerdwriter reminds us. "And then the art is with you; it's in your home. As you read the stories, it's on your bedside table. It's art you hold with your hands. It's not precious: it's bent, folded, and creased. And above all, it's weird."

Related Content:

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

Enter the Pulp Magazine Archive, Featuring Over 11,000 Digitized Issues of Classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Detective Fiction

Pulp Covers for Classic Detective Novels by Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie & Raymond Chandler

36 Abstract Covers of Vintage Psychology, Philosophy & Science Books Come to Life in a Mesmerizing Animation

Download 650 Soviet Book Covers, Many Sporting Wonderful Avant-Garde Designs (1917-1942)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Tom Wolfe’s Groundbreaking Work, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Gets Released as a Limited Collector’s Edition, with Each Copy Signed by the Author 

Taschen recently released a collector's edition of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Tom Wolfe's rollicking account of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters' acid-fueled road trip across the United States, aboard the psychedelic school bus known as "Further." With the passing of Tom Wolfe last week, the release of the collector's edition takes on some added importance.

When The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test first came out in 1968, Eliot Fremont-Smith wrote in The New York Times that “it is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the essential book.” The book "is printed in black and white, but the words come through in crazy Day-Glo--fluorescent, psychedelic, at once energetic and epicene."

The new Taschen edition is something different. The abridged text is published in "traditional letterpress, with facsimile reproductions of Wolfe’s manuscript pages, as well as Ken Kesey’s jailhouse journals, handbills, and underground magazines of the period." "Interweaving the prose and ephemera are photographic essays from Lawrence Schiller, whose coverage of the acid scene for Life magazine helped inspire Wolfe to write his story, and Ted Streshinsky, who accompanied Wolfe while reporting for the New York Herald Tribune." There are also photographs by poet Allen Ginsberg.

In total, Taschen has produced 1,968 signed copies of the collector's edition, each signed by Tom Wolfe himself. The cost is set at $350.

If you never spent time with The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and want to read a simple paperback edition that costs less than $10, you can find a copy here.

Note: We belong to the Taschen affiliate program. So if you get a copy of the collector's edition, it benefits not just you and Taschen. It benefits Open Culture too. So consider it win-win-win.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Hear Tom Wolfe (RIP) Tell Studs Terkel All About Custom-Car Culture, the Subject of His Seminal Piece of New Journalism (1965)

The Acid Test Reels: Ken Kesey & The Grateful Dead’s Soundtrack for the 1960s Famous LSD Parties

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Animated

Aldous Huxley, Dying of Cancer, Left This World Tripping on LSD (1963)

Ken Kesey Talks About the Meaning of the Acid Tests

How Women Got Dressed in the 14th & 18th Centuries: Watch the Very Painstaking Process Get Cinematically Recreated

We live in an age of convenience, and one getting more convenient all the time. Few comparisons between past and present underscore that quite so much as the morning routine. Hot and cold running water on demand, properly appreciated, can seem miraculous enough, let alone more recent developments like the availability of high-quality coffee on every city block. But consider clothing, the change in whose outward appearance over the past 700 years or so goes along with an equally dramatic change in use. We still wear clothes for all the same basic reasons we did back then, of course, but what it takes to wear them has diminished to comparative effortlessness.

These videos, one on getting dressed in the 14th century and one on getting dressed in the 18th century, offer detailed, narrated, and cinematic looks at what the process once entailed — or at least what the process entailed for English women of a certain class.

The average man in those periods, too, had to deal with much more hassle putting on his clothes in the morning that he does today, but the female case, with its shift, stays, petticoats, pockets, roll, stockings and garters, gown and stomacher, apron, and more besides, required not just a great deal of discipline and concentration on the part of the dresser but assistance from another pair of hands as well.

You can find more such videos on the finer points of women's dressing routines of yore, including further explanations of such elements as pockets and busks, on this playlist. The social, technological, and industrial stories behind why it has all become so much less complicated over the centuries has provided, and will continue to provide, the driving questions for many an academic thesis. But despite the enormous reduction in the labor-intensiveness of putting them on, clothes have not, of course, become a perfectly simple matter for we dressers of the comparatively ultra-casual 21st century. Still, after watching all it took to get dressed those hundreds and hundreds of years ago, many of us — male or female — might arrive at the thought that we could stand to put just a little more effort into the job.

via Boing Boing

Related Content:

What’s It Like to Fight in 15th Century Armor?: A Surprising Demonstration

An Online Trove of Historic Sewing Patterns & Costumes

The Dresser: The Contraption That Makes Getting Dressed an Adventure

1930s Fashion Designers Predict How People Would Dress in the Year 2000

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Why Sitting Is The New Smoking: An Animated Explanation

In recent years, sitting has become the new smoking. "Past studies have found," declares a 2014 article in The New York Times, "the more hours that people spend sitting, the more likely they are to develop diabetes, heart disease and other conditions, and potentially to die prematurely — even if they exercise regularly." What's the science behind this alarming claim? The animated TED-ED video (watch above) begins to paint the picture. But it doesn't get into the latest and perhaps most important research. According to science writer Gretchen Reynolds, a recent Swedish study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that when you sit all day, your telomeres (the tiny caps on the ends of DNA strands) get shorter. Which is not a good thing. As telomeres get shorter, the rate at which the body ages and decays speeds up. Conversely, the study found "that the telomeres in [those] who were sitting the least had lengthened. Their cells seemed to be growing physiologically younger."

Several years ago, KQED radio in San Francisco aired a program dedicated to this question, featuring medical and ergonomics experts. To delve deeper into it, listen below.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

This Is Your Brain on Exercise: Why Physical Exercise (Not Mental Games) Might Be the Best Way to Keep Your Mind Sharp

Playing an Instrument Is a Great Workout For Your Brain: New Animation Explains Why

What’s a Scientifically-Proven Way to Improve Your Ability to Learn? Get Out and Exercise





  • Great Lectures

  • FREE UPDATES!

    GET OUR DAILY EMAIL

    Get the best cultural and educational resources on the web curated for you in a daily email. We never spam. Unsubscribe at any time.



    FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA

  • About Us

    Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.


    Advertise With Us

  • Archives

  • Quantcast