Interactive Map Lets You Take a Literary Journey Through the Historic Monuments of Rome

Arches on arches! as it were that Rome,

Collecting the chief trophies of her line,

Would build up all her triumphs in one dome,

Her Coliseum stands; the moonbeams shine

As 'twere its natural torches, for divine

Should be the light which streams here, to illume

This long-explored but still exhaustless mine

Of contemplation; and the azure gloom

Of an Italian night, where the deep skies assume

Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven,

Floats o'er this vast and wondrous monument,

And shadows forth its glory.

—Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1818)

A modern visitor to Rome, drawn to the Coliseum on a moonlit night, is unlikely to be so bewitched, sandwiched between his or her fellow tourists and an army of vendors aggressively peddling light-up whirligigs, knock off designer scarves, and acrylic columns etched with the Eternal City’s must-see attractions.

These days, your best bet for touring Rome’s best known landmarks in peace may be an interactive map, compliments of the Morgan Library and Museum. Based on Paul-Marie Letarouilly’s picturesque 1841 city plan, each digital pin can be expanded to reveal descriptions by nineteenth-century authors and side-by-side, then-and-now comparisons of the featured monuments.

The enduring popularity of the film Three Coins in the Fountain, coupled with the invention of the selfie stick has turned the area around the Trevi Fountain into a pickpocket’s dream and a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare.

Not so in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s day, though unlike Lord Byron, he cultivated a cool remove, at least at first:

They and the rest of the party descended some steps to the water’s brim, and, after a sip or two, stood gazing at the absurd design of the fountain, where some sculptor of Bernini’s school had gone absolutely mad in marble. It was a great palace-front, with niches and many bas-reliefs, out of which looked Agrippa’s legendary virgin, and several of the allegoric sisterhood; while, at the base, appeared Neptune, with his floundering steeds and Tritons blowing their horns about him, and twenty other artificial fantasies, which the calm moonlight soothed into better taste than was native to them. And, after all, it was as magnificent a piece of work as ever human skill contrived. At the foot of the palatial façade was strown, with careful art and ordered irregularity, a broad and broken heap of massive rock, looking as if it might have lain there since the deluge. Over a central precipice fell the water, in a semicircular cascade; and from a hundred crevices, on all sides, snowy jets gushed up, and streams spouted out of the mouths and nostrils of stone monsters, and fell in glistening drops; while other rivulets, that had run wild, came leaping from one rude step to another, over stones that were mossy, slimy, and green with sedge, because in a century of their wild play, Nature had adopted the Fountain of Trevi, with all its elaborate devices, for her own.

The human statues garbed as gladiators and charioteers spend hours in the blazing sun at the foot of the Spanish Stepsthe heirs to the artists and models who populated William Wetmore Story’s Roba di Roma:

All day long, these steps are flooded with sunshine in which, stretched at length, or gathered in picturesque groups, models of every age and both sexes bask away the hours when they are free from employment in the studios. ... Sometimes a group of artists, passing by, will pause and steadily examine one of these models, turn him about, pose him, point out his defects and excellences, give him a baiocco, and pass on. It is, in fact, a models’ exchange.

The Medici Villa houses the Académie de France, and its gardens remain a pleasant respite, even in 2017. Visitors who aren’t wholly consumed with finding a wifi signal may find themselves fantasizing about a different life, much as Henry James did in his Italian Hours:

Such a dim light as of a fabled, haunted place, such a soft suffusion of tender grey-green tones, such a company of gnarled and twisted little miniature trunks—dwarfs playing with each other at being giants—and such a shower of golden sparkles drifting in from the vivid West! ... I should name for my own first wish that one didn’t have to be a Frenchman to come and live and dream and work at the Académie de France. Can there be for a while a happier destiny than that of a young artist conscious of talent and of no errand but to educate, polish and perfect it, transplanted to these sacred shades?...What mornings and afternoons one might spend there, brush in hand, unpreoccupied, untormented, pensioned, satisfied—either persuading one’s self that one would be “doing something” in consequence or not caring if one shouldn’t be.

The interactive map was created to accompany the Morgan’s 2016 exhibition City of the Soul: Rome and the Romantics. Other pitstops include St. Peter’s, the Roman Forum, and The Equestrian Monument of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitol. Begin your explorations here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

An Online Trove of Historic Sewing Patterns & Costumes

As Halloween draws nigh, our thoughts turn to costumes.

Not those rubbery, poorly constructed, sexy and/or gory off-the-rack readymades, but the sort of lavish, historically accurate, home-sewn affairs that would have earned praise and extra candy, if only our mother had been inclined to spend the bulk of October chained to a sewing machine.

Not that one needs the excuse of a holiday to suit up in a fluffy 50’s crinoline, a Tudor-style kirtle gown, or a 16th-century Flemish outfit with all the trimmings....

Accountant Artemisia Moltabocca, creator of the historical and cosplay costuming blog Costuming Diary, has primed our pump with a list of free historical medieval, Elizabethan and Victorian patterns, including ones for the garments mentioned above.




Click through the many links on her site and you may find yourself tumbling down a rabbit hole of some other cos-player's generosity.

That link to the custom corset pattern generator may set you on the road to creating a perfectly fitted Viking apron or a good-for-beginners tunic. (Bring out yer dead!)

Fancy even more choices? Moltabocca’s Free Historical Costume Patterns Pinterest board is a veritable trove of dress-up fun.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Costume and Textiles Project has detailed downloadable PDFs to walk you through construction of such anachronistic finery as a 1940’s Zoot Suit, a 19th-century boy’s frock (above), and a man’s vest with removable chest pads (hubba hubba).

An 1812 Ohio Militia Officer’s Coat from the Ohio Historical Society.

A pair of Nankeen Trousers courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum.

A bullet bra (hubba bubba redux!)—pair it with a 1940s Vogue hat and handbag and you’re ready to go!

A Regency Drawn Bonnet and an Improved Seamless Whalebone Underskirt from E. & J. Holmes & Co, Boston, 1857.

If you’re feeling less than confident about your sewing abilities, you might make like an upper-class Roman in an Ionian chiton.

Or just curl a synthetic wig!

Press someone else’s seams with a straightening iron (above), then kick back and enjoy the vintage ads, photos of antique garments, and the period information that often accompanies these how-tos. And check out the 1913 patent application for Marie Perillat’s Bust Reducer, a miracle invention designed to “prevent flesh bulging while providing self adjustable, comfortable, hygienic support.”

Begin with some of Costuming Diary’s historical sewing patterns before delving into its massive pattern collection board on Pinterest.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her current sewing project is 19 headpieces for Theater of the Apes Sub-Adult Division’s upcoming production of Animal Farm at the Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

An Intimate Look at Alberto Giacometti in His Studio, Making His Iconic Sculptures (1965)

A visit to an artist’s studio can shed light on his or her work.

The British Arts Council’s short film above affords an intimate glimpse into Alberto Giacometti’s studio in Montparnasse circa 1965, the year when he was the subject of major retrospectives at both the Tate Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The artist passed most of his working life in cramped space at 46 rue Hippolyte. Early on, he entertained plans to relocate “because it was too small – just a hole."




Others visitors to the studio described the artist’s environs in more literary terms:

In a charming little forgotten garden he has a studio, submerged in plaster, and he lives next to this in a kind of hangar, vast and cold, with neither furniture nor food. He works very hard for fifteen hours at a stretch, above all at night: the cold, his frozen hands – he takes no notice, he works. Simone de Beauvoir

And:

This ground floor studio... is going to cave in at any moment now. It is made of worm-eaten wood and grey powder.... Everything is stained and ready for the bin, everything is precarious and about to collapse, everything is about to dissolve, everything is floating.... And yet it all appears to be captured in an absolute reality. When I leave the studio, when I am outside on the street, then nothing that surrounds me is true. - Playwright Jean Genet

And:

The whole place looking as if it had been thrown together with a few old sticks and a lot of chewing gum.... In short, a dump. Anyway he said come in when I knocked.... He turned and glanced at me, holding out his hand which was covered in clay, so I shook his wrist.... He immediately resumed work, running his fingers up and down the clay so fiercely that lumps fell onto the floor - Essayist James Lord

These impressions paint a portrait of a driven, and disciplined artist, who logged untold hours modeling his formes elongee in clay, unceremoniously crumpling and rebuilding in the pursuit of excellence.

The camera documents this intensity, though his untranslated remarks suggest a man capable of taking himself lightly, certainly more so than the accompanying narration does.

Like the narration, Roger Smalley's dissonant score lays it on thick, the sonic equivalent of heads like blades and "limbs bound as though bandaged for the grave." Perhaps we should conceive of the studio as a scary place?

In actuality, it proved a hospitable work environment and the impulse to relocate eventually waned, with the artist observing that “the longer I stayed, the bigger it became. I could fit anything I wanted into it.”

Explore the recent Tate Modern Giacometti retrospective here and take a closer look at the studio via Ernst Scheidegger’s photos.

"Giacometti" will be added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

1,000+ Historic Japanese Illustrated Books Digitized & Put Online by the Smithsonian: From the Edo & Meji Eras (1600-1912)

Surely we've all wondered what we might do as prominent nineteenth-century industrialists, and more than a few of us (especially here in the Open Culture crowd) would no doubt invest our fortunes in the art of the world. Railcar manufacturing magnate Charles Lang Freer did just that, as we can see today in the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Together with the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Sackler having made it as "the father of modern pharmaceutical advertising"), it constitutes the Smithsonian Institution's national museum of Asian art, gathering everything from ancient Egyptian stone sculpture to Chinese paintings to Korean pottery to Japanese books.

We like to highlight Japanese book culture here every so often (see the related content below) not just because of its striking aesthetics and consummate craftsmanship but because of its deep history. You can now experience a considerable swath of that history free online at the Freer|Sacker Library's web site, which just this past summer finished digitizing over one thousand books — now more than 1,100, which breaks down to 41,500 separate images — published during Japan's Edo and Meiji periods, a span of time reaching from 1600 to 1912. "Often filled with beautiful multi-color illustrations," writes Reiko Yoshimura at the Smithsonian Libraries' blog, "many titles are by prominent Japanese traditional and ukiyo-e ('floating world') painters such as Ogata Kōrin (1658-1716), Andō Hiroshige (1797-1858) and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)."

Yoshimura directs readers to such volumes as Hokusai's One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji, Utagawa Toyokuni's Thirty-Six Popular Actors, and artist, craftsman, and designer Kōetsu's collection of one hundred librettos for noh theater performances. Even those who can't read classical Japanese will admire an aesthete like Kōetsu's way with what Yoshimura calls his "caligraphic 'font,'" all "skillfully printed on luxurious mica embellished papers using wooden movable-type."

While the online collection's scans come in a more than high enough resolution for general appreciation, to get the full effect of bookmaking techniques like mica embellishment — which only sparkles when seen in real life — you'd have to visit the physical collection. Some things, it seems, can't yet be digitized.

Enter the collection of Japanese Illustrated Books here.

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Behold the Masterpiece by Japan’s Last Great Woodblock Artist: View Online Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (1885)

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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 Smithsonian Design Museum Digitizes 200,000 Objects, Giving You Access to 3,000 Years of Design Innovation & History

John Lennon poster by Richard Avedon

When we think of design, each of us thinks of it in our own way, focusing on our own interests: illustration, fashion, architecture, interfaces, manufacturing, or any of a vast number of sub-disciplines besides. Those of us who have paid a visit to Cooper Hewitt, also known as the Smithsonian Design Museum, have a sense of just how much human innovation, and even human history, that term can encompass. Now, thanks to an ambitious digitization project that has so far put 200,000 items (or 92 percent of the museum's collection) online, you can experience that realization virtually.

Concept car designed by William McBride

The video below explains the system, an impressive feat of design in and of itself, with which Cooper Hewitt made this possible. "In collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office, the mass digitization project transformed a physical object (2-D or 3-D) from the shelf to a virtual object in one continuous process," says its about page. "At its peak, the project had four photographic set ups in simultaneous operation, allowing each to handle a certain size, range and type of object, from minute buttons to large posters and furniture. A key to the project’s success was having a completely barcoded collection, which dramatically increased efficiency and allowed all object information to be automatically linked to each image."

Given that the items in Cooper Hewitt's collection come from all across a 3000-year slice of history, you'll need an exploration strategy or two. Have a look at the collection highlights page and you'll find curated sections housing the items pictured here, including psychedelic posters, designs for automobiles, architect's eye, and designs for the Olympics — and that's just some of the relatively recent stuff. Hit the random button instead and you may find yourself beholding, in high resolution, anything from a dragonish fragment of a panel ornament from 18th-century France to a late 19th-century collar to a Swedish vase from the 1980s.

Mexico 68 designed by Lance Wyman

Cooper Hewitt has also begun integrating its online and offline experiences, having installed a version of its collection browser on tables in its physical galleries. There visitors can "select items from the 'object river' that flows down the center of each table" about which to learn more, as well as use a "new interactive Pen" that "further enhances the visitor experience with the ability to “collect” and “save” information, as well as create original designs on the tables." So no matter how much time you spend with Cooper Hewitt's online collection — and you could potentially spend a great deal — you might, should you find yourself on Manhattan's Museum Mile, consider stopping into the museum to see how physical and digital design can work together. Enter the Cooper Hewitt's online collection here.

Temple of Curiosity by Etienne-Louis Boullée

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

An Animated Look at Vladimir Nabokov’s Passion for Butterfly Collecting: “Literature & Butterflies Are the Two Sweetest Passions Known to Man”

Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man. - Vladimir Nabokov

A 1941 family road trip along Route 66 planted the seeds for Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita.

It also enriched the American Museum of Natural History’s butterfly collection by some 300 North American specimens.

The author, an avid amateur lepidopterist, indulged his hobby along the way, depositing butterflies collected on this and other trips in glassine envelopes labeled with the name of the towns where the creatures encountered his net. Upon his return, he decided to donate most of his haul to the museum’s Lepidoptera collection, where he was as an eager volunteer.




Years later, Suzanne Rab Green, a Tiger Moth specialist and assistant curator at the museum, uncovered Nabokov’s specimens packed in a vintage White Owl cigar box.

Recognizing that this collection had literary value as well as scientific, Green decided to sort it by location rather than species, preserving the carefully hand-lettered envelopes along with the fragile wings and thoraxes.

Using Google Earth, she retraced Nabokov’s 3-week journey for the museum’s Shelf Life series, digitally pinning his finds alongside vintage postcards of Gettysburg, Yosemite National Park, and the Grande Tourist Lodge in Dallas, Texas—all fertile collection sites, at least in 1941.

Butterflies remained a lifelong obsession for the author. He served for six years as curator of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology’s Lepidoptera wing and developed an evolutionary theory related to his study of the Polyommatus blues Green mentions in the 360° video above. (Be aware, the 360° feature will not work in Safari).

He also wooed his wife, Vera, by making charming and keenly observed drawings of butterflies for her.

An avowed enemy of symbols and allegory, Nabokov prevented butterflies from occupying too significant a role in his fictional oeuvre, though he gushed unabashedly in his memoir, Speak, Memory:

Let me also evoke the hawkmoths, the jets of my boyhood! Colors would die a long death on June evenings. The lilac shrubs in full bloom before which I stood, net in hand, displayed clusters of a fluffy gray in the dark—the ghost of purple. A moist young moon hung above the mist of a neighboring meadow. In many a garden have I stood thus in later years—in Athens, Antibes, Atlanta—but never have I waited with such a keen desire as before those darkening lilacs. And suddenly it would come, the low buzz passing from flower to flower, the vibrational halo around the streamlined body of an olive and pink Hummingbird moth poised in the air above the corolla into which it had dipped its long tongue…. Through the gusty blackness, one’s lantern would illumine the stickily glistening furrows of the bark and two or three large moths upon it imbibing the sweets, their nervous wings half open butterfly fashion, the lower ones exhibiting their incredible crimson silk from beneath the lichen-gray primaries. “Catocala adultera!” I would triumphantly shriek in the direction of the lighted windows of the house as I stumbled home to show my captures to my father.

Despite the author’s stated distaste for overt symbolism, a few butterflies did manage to flutter onto the pages of his best known work, resulting in at least one thesis papers that makes a case for Lolita as butterfly—irresistible, beautiful, easily ensnared….

Did I ever mention that her bare arm bore the 8 of vaccination? That I loved her hopelessly? That she was only fourteen? An inquisitive butterfly passed, dipping, between us.

- Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955

Track Nabokov's cross-country butterfly collecting trip, courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History, here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The British Museum Creates 3D Models of the Rosetta Stone & 200+ Other Historic Artifacts: Download or View in Virtual Reality

A quick fyi: Back in 2015, The British Museum gave the world online access to the Rosetta Stone, along with 4,700 other artifacts in the great London museum. But that access was only in 2D.

Now they've upped the ante and published a 3D model of the Rosetta Stone and 200+ other essential items in the museum's collections. "This scan was part of our larger attempt to capture as many of our iconic pieces from the collection — and indeed the unseen in store objects — and make them available for people to view in 3D or in more tactile forms,” Daniel Pett, a British Museum adviser told Digital Trends.

Other 3D models you might want to check out include the granite head of Amenemhat III, a portrait bust of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, and a statue of Roy, High Priest of Amun.

Note: If you put your mouse on the objects and swivel on your trackpad, you can see different sides of the artifacts. Created with a company called Sketchfab, the 3D models are all available to download. You can also see them in virtual reality. (Look for the little "View in VR" icon at the bottom of each image.)

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via Hyperallergic

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