How the Fences & Railings Adorning London’s Buildings Doubled (by Design) as Civilian Stretchers in World War II

London is a particularly rich destination for visitors with an interest in World War II:

Winston Churchill’s underground War Rooms

The Royal Air Force Museum

Blitz-specific walking tours

…and the scabby steel fences/railings surrounding a number of South London housing estates?

These mesh-and-pipe barriers look utterly unremarkable until one hears their origin story—as emergency stretchers for bearing away civilian casualties from the rubble of Luftwaffe raids.




The no-frills design was intended less for patient comfort than easy clean up. Kinks in the long stretcher poles kept the injured off the ground, and allowed for easy pick up by volunteers from the Civil Defence Service.

Some 600,000 of these stretchers were produced in preparation for airborne attacks. The Blitz killed over 28,000 London civilians. The number of wounded was nearly as high. The manufacture of child-sized stretchers speaks to the citizens' awareness that the human price would be ghastly indeed.

''I am almost glad we have been bombed,'' Queen Elizabeth “the Queen Mum” told a friend after Buckingham Palace was strafed in 1940. ''Now I feel I can look the East End in the face.''

Born of community spirit, it’s fitting that the stretchers continue to serve the community, replacing more ornamental fences that had been uprooted for scrap metal as part of the war effort.

Few neighborhood residents, let alone tourists, seem aware of the fences’ history, as evidenced in the video above.

Perhaps the recently formed Stretcher Railing Society—for the promotion, protection and preservation of London's Air Raid Protection Stretcher Railings—will change that, or at the very least, put up some plaques.

See photos of the stretchers in action, then follow the Stretcher Railing Society’s map to their present locations.

via Twisted Sifter

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

Smartify, a Shazam for Art, Lets You Use Your Phone to Scan, Identify & Learn About Major Works of Art

Not so long ago, art museums were known as temples of quiet contemplation, despite daily invasions by raucous school groups.

Now, the onus is on the museums to bring the mountain to Mohammed. Those kids have smartphones. How long can a museum hope to stay relevant—nay, survive—without an app?

Many of the museums who’ve already partnered up with Smartify—an app (Mac-Android) that lets you take a picture of artwork with your phone and instantly access information about them—have existing apps of their own in place: the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, to name a few.




These institutional apps provide visitors with an expanded view of the sort of information one commonly finds on a museum card, in addition to such practicalities as gallery layouts and calendars of events. More often than not, there’s an option to “save” an artwork the visitor finds captivating—no word on what this feature is doing to postcard sales in museum shops, so perhaps print isn't dead yet.

Given all the museum apps free for the downloading, for whom is Smartify, a "Shazam for art," intended?

Perhaps the globetrotting museum hopper eager to consolidate? Its developers are adamant that it’s intended to complement, not replace, in-person visits to the institutions where the works are housed, so armchair museum goers are advised to look elsewhere, like Google Arts & Culture.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries will be the smaller galleries and museums ill equipped to launch freestanding apps of their own. Smartify’s website states that it relies on “annual membership from museum partners, in-app transactions, advertising and data sales to relevant arts organisations.”

Early adopters complained that while the app (Mac-Android) had no trouble identifying famous works of art, it came up empty on the lesser-known pieces. That's a pity as these are the works visitors are most likely to seek further information on.

One of the developers compared the Smartify experience to visiting a museum in the company of “an enthusiastic and knowledgeable friend telling you more about a work of art.”

Maybe better to do just that, if the option exists? Such a friend would not be hampered by the copyright laws that hamper Smartify with regard to certain works. A friend might even stand you a hot chocolate or some pricey scone in the museum cafe.

At any rate, the app (Mac-Android) is now available for visitors to take for a spin in 22 different museums and galleries in the UK, US, and Europe, with the promise of more to come.

Those whose knowledge of art history is vast are likely to be underwhelmed, but it could be a way for those visiting with kids and teens to keep everyone engaged for the duration. As one enthusiastic user wrote:

As a childhood Pokemon fan and avid art fan, this is a dream come true. This is like a Pokedex for art lol. If you ever watched the anime, Ash Ketchum would scan a Pokemon with his Pokedex and get the details of its name, type, habits, etc. This app does that but instead of scanning monsters, it scans and analyzes art work then gives you the load (sic) down about it.

Those with Internet privacy concerns may choose to heed, instead, the user who wrote:

Be aware, they want to gather as a "side effect" your private art collection. I just wanted to try it out with some of my art pieces (Günther Förg, Richter, etc) but it doesn't work if you don't give them your location data. Be careful!

 

Museums and Galleries Whose Images/Art Appear in Smartify as of January 2018

USA:

J. Paul Getty Museum

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Laguna Art Museum

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Freer | Sackler GalleriesThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met Cloisters

 

UK:

The Bowes Museum

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Ben Uri Gallery

The Wallace Collection

Royal Academy of Arts

National Gallery

Sculpture in the City

 

Europe:

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum Twenthe

Little Beaux-Arts

Museo Correr

Museo San Donato (MPSArt)

The State Hermitage Museum

The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

 

Download Smartify for Mac or Android.

via Dezeen

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

Mark Twain on Why “Travel is Fatal to Prejudice, Bigotry and Narrow-Mindedness, and Many of Our People Need It Sorely on These Accounts” (1869)

Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons

Humanity has come up with many negative stereotypes of Americans, some of them not entirely groundless: the widely held belief, for example, that Americans don't get out much. I admit the truth of that one as an American myself — albeit an American who now lives in Asia — because I certainly did drag my feet on getting a passport and getting out there in the world at first. Perhaps I can take comfort in the fact that no less a colossus of American letters began his international travels even later than I did, though when he did get around to it, he got even more out of it: not only The Innocents Abroad, one of the best-loved travel books of all time, but an insight into what makes travel so vital a pursuit in the first place.

The travels Mark Twain recounts in the book began in 1867 on the chartered vessel Quaker City, which took him and a group of his countrymen through Europe and the Holy Land, an itinerary including a stop at the 1867 Paris Exhibition and journeys through the Papal States to Rome and through the Black Sea to Odessa, all followable on a hypertext map at the University of Virginia's Mark Twain in His Times page. "In his account Mark Twain assumes two alternate roles," says the Library of America, "at times the no-nonsense American who refuses to automatically venerate the famous sights of the Old World (preferring Lake Tahoe to Lake Como), or at times the put-upon simpleton, a gullible victim of flatterers and 'frauds,' and an awe-struck admirer of Russian royalty."




Whether you read The Innocents Abroad in the Library of America's edition or in one of a variety of free formats downloadable from Project Gutenberg, you'll eventually come to Twain's justification for the entire project: not the writing project with its handsome remuneration and name-making popularity, but the project of travel itself. Though many elements of the Old World experience, as well as prolonged exposure to his fellow Americans, put his formidable complaining ability to the test, the "breezy, shrewd, and comical manipulator of English idioms and America’s mythologies about itself and its relation to the past" (as the Library of America describes him) ultimately admits that

I have no fault to find with the manner in which our excursion was conducted. Its programme was faithfully carried out—a thing which surprised me, for great enterprises usually promise vastly more than they perform. It would be well if such an excursion could be gotten up every year and the system regularly inaugurated. Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

Distinctly Twainian words, of course, but many other writers have since also tried to express the uniquely mind-expanding properties of spending time outside your homeland. As Rudyard Kipling memorably put it to his own countrymen, a few decades after The Innocents Abroad, in "The English Flag," "What should they know of England who only England know?"

Or as one writer friend of mine, well-known for the globalized nature of his books and well as of his own identity, once said, "If Americans don't travel, we're like a man who lives in a hovel assuming everyone else lives in a worse hovel." But it always comes back to Twain, who knew that "nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people" — and who also knew that nobody quite realized "what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad." We can all think of much worse reasons to head across the ocean than that.

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Join Clive James on His Classic Television Trips to Paris, LA, Tokyo, Rio, Cairo & Beyond

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 “Humans of New York” Photo Project Becomes a 13-Part Video Documentary Series: Watch It Free Online


New York, New York—there are many ways of assessing whether or not you’ve “made” it here—these days it includes an appearance on photographer Brandon Stanton’s wildly popular blog, Humans of New York, in which a spontaneous street portrait is anchored by a personal quote or longer anecdote.

Following several books and a UN-sponsored world tour to document humans in over twenty countries, the project has morphed into a 13-episode docu-series as part of Facebook’s original video content platform.

Aided by cinematographer Michael Crommett, Stanton elicits his customary blend of universal and specific truths from his interview subjects. Extending the moment into the video realm affords viewers a larger window onto the complexities of each human’s situation.

Take episode four, “Relationships,” above:

An ample, unadorned woman in late-middle age recalls being swept off her feet by a passion that still burns bright…

An NYU grad stares uncomfortably in her purple cap and gown as her divorced parents air various regrets…

A couple with mismatched views on marriage are upstaged by a spontaneous proposal unfolding a few feet away…

La Vie en Rose holds deep meaning for two couples, despite radically different locations, presentations, and orientations.

A little girl has no problem calling the shots around her special fella…

I love you, New York!!!

Other themes include Money, Time, Purpose, and Parenting.

One of the great pleasures of both series and blog is Stanton’s open-mindedness as to what constitutes New York and New Yorkers.

Some interviews take place near such tourist-friendly locales as Bethesda Fountain and the Washington Square Arch, but just as many transpire alongside noticeably Outer Borough architecture or the blasted cement heaths aproning its less sought after public schools.

Those who live here will nod with recognition at the cherry blossom selfies, "showtime" in the subway, and the Bushwick vibe of the groom who proposed to his bride at Coney Island, under the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Wall of Fame.

Ditto the appearance of such local celebrities as Jimmy Webb, emeritus manager of the punk boutique, Trash and Vaudeville and Blackwolf the Dragonmaster, the city’s unofficial wizard.

Below, Stanton explains his goal when conducting interviews and demonstrates how a non-threatening approach can soften strangers to the point of candor.

It's well know 'round these parts that certain segments of the local populace would gnaw off limbs to be immortalized by Stanton, but he cleaves to the pure serendipity of his selection process. Asking to have your picture taken ensures that it won’t be. Luck puts you in front of his lens. Sharing your truth is what makes you human.

Watch Humans of New York: The Series 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.

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.

If You Drive Down a Stretch of Route 66, the Road Will Play “America the Beautiful”

If you find yourself in New Mexico, traveling down a stretch of Route 66, you can drive over a quarter mile-long rumble strip and your car's tires will play "America the Beautiful."  That's assuming you're driving at the speed limit, 45 miles per hour. Don't believe me? Watch the clip above.

As Atlas Obscura explains, the "Musical Highway" or "Singing Highway" was "installed in 2014 as part of a partnership between the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the National Geographic Channel." It's all part of an elaborate attempt to get drivers to slow down and obey the speed limit. "Getting the rumble strips to serenade travelers required a fair bit of engineering. The individual strips had to be placed at the precise distance from one another to produce the notes they needed to sing their now-signature song."

You'll find this particular stretch of road between Albuquerque and Tijeras. Here's the location on Google Maps. Other musical rumble strips have popped up in Denmark, Japan and South Korea.

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India on Film, 1899-1947: An Archive of 90 Historic Films Now Online

India, the largest democracy in the world, is a rising economic powerhouse, and a major player in the fields of media, entertainment, and telecommunications.

But for many armchair travelers, subcontinental modernity takes a backseat to postcard visions of elephants, teeming rustic streets, and snake charmers.

Fans of Rudyard Kipling and E.M. Forster will thrill to the vintage footage in a just released British Film Institute online archive, India on Film (see a trailer above).




1914’s The Wonderful Fruit of the Tropics, a stencil-coloured French-produced primer on the edible flora of India offers just the right blend of exoticism and reassurance (“the fruit of a mango is excellent as a food”) for a newly arrived British housewife.

A Native Street in India (1906) speaks to the populousness that continues to define a country scheduled to outpace China’s numbers within the next 10 years.

An Eastern Market follows a Punjabi farmer’s trek to town, to buy and sell and take in the big city sights.

The archive’s biggest celeb is surely activist Mahatma Gandhi, whose great nephew, Kanu, enjoyed unlimited filming access on the assurance that he would never ask his uncle to pose.

The Raj makes itself known in 1925's King Emperor's Cup Race, a Handley Page biplane arriving in Calcutta in 1917, and several films documenting Edward Prince of Wales’ 1922 tour

Explore the full BFI’s full India on Film: 1899-1947 playlist here. It features 90 films in total, with maybe more to come.

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

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