1,100 Delicate Drawings of Root Systems Reveals the Hidden World of Plants

We know that plants can inspire art. If you, personally, still require convincing on that point, just have a look at Elizabeth Twining’s Illustrations of the Natural Orders of Plants, the drawings of Ernst Heinrich Haeckel, Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal, and Nancy Anne Kingsbury Wollstonecraft’s Specimens of the Plants and Fruits of the Island of Cuba — not to mention the paintings of Georgia O’ Keeffe — all previously featured here on Open Culture. But those works concern themselves only with plant life as it exists above ground.

What goes on down below, underneath the soil? That you can see for yourself — and without having to pull up one of our fine flowering (or non-flowering) friends to do so — at Wageningen University’s online archive of root system drawings. “The outcome of 40 years of  root system excavations in Europe,” says that site, the collection contains 1,180 diagrams of species from Abies alba (best known today as a kind of Christmas tree) to Zygophyllum xanthoxylon (a faintly scrubby-looking native of the arid and semi-arid regions of continents like Africa and Australia).

The site explains that “the drawings, their analysis and description were done by Univ. Prof. Dr. Erwin Lichtenegger (1928-2004) and Univ. Prof. Dr. Lore Kutschera (1917-2008), leader of Pflanzensoziologisches Institut, Klagenfurt, (now in Bad Goisern, Austria).”


Over the course of 40 years, writes The Washington Post‘s Erin Blakemore, Lichtenegger and Kustchera “collaborated on an enormous ‘root atlas’ that maps the underground trajectories of common European plants.” Created through “a laborious system of digging up and documenting the intricate systems,” these drawings are “also art in their own right, honoring the beauty of a part of plants most never give that much thought.”

Even the least botanically aware among us knows that plants have roots, but how many of us are aware of the scale and complexity those roots can attain? “Root systems allow plants to gather the water and minerals they use to grow,” writes Blakemore. “As the root system grows, it creates more and more pathways that allow water to get into the deep subsoil, and fostering the growth of microbes that benefit other life. Strong root systems can prevent erosion, protecting the land on which they grow. And the structures allow the soil to capture carbon.” Thus root systems, never a particular locus of coolness, have the distinction of doing their part to fight climate change. And thanks to Lichtenegger and Kustchera’s drawings, they underscore the capacity of art to reveal worlds hidden to most of us. View all of the images here.

via Colossal

Related Content:

Behold an Interactive Online Edition of Elizabeth Twining’s Illustrations of the Natural Orders of Plants (1868)

Historic Manuscript Filled with Beautiful Illustrations of Cuban Flowers & Plants Is Now Online (1826)

Ernst Haeckel’s Sublime Drawings of Flora and Fauna: The Beautiful Scientific Drawings That Influenced Europe’s Art Nouveau Movement (1889)

A Curious Herbal: 500 Beautiful Illustrations of Medicinal Plants Drawn by Elizabeth Blackwell in 1737 (to Save Her Family from Financial Ruin)

Two Million Wondrous Nature Illustrations Put Online by The Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Social Lives of Trees: Science Reveals How Trees Mysteriously Talk to Each Other, Work Together & Form Nurturing Families

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.

400,000+ Sound Recordings Made Before 1923 Have Entered the Public Domain

A century ago, the United States was deep into the Jazz Age. No writer is more closely associated with that heady era than F. Scott Fitzgerald, who (in addition to coining the verb to cocktail) took it upon himself to popularize its name. In 1922 he even titled a short story collection Tales from the Jazz Age, which entered the public domain not long ago. You may be more familiar with another work of Fitzgerald’s that followed Tales from the Jazz Age into freedom just last year: a novel called The Great Gatsby. But only this year have the actual sounds of the Jazz Age come into the public domain as well, thanks to the Music Modernization Act passed by U.S. Congress in 2018.

“According to the act, all sound recordings prior to 1923 will have their copyrights expire in the US on January 1, 2022,” says the Public Domain Review. This straightens out a tangled legal framework that previously wouldn’t have allowed the release of pre-1923 sound recordings until the distant year of 2067.


And so all of us now have free use of every sound recording from a more than 60-year period  that “comprises a rich and varied playlist: experimental first dabblings, vaudeville, Broadway hits, ragtime, and the beginnings of popular jazz. Included will be the works of Scott Joplin, Thomas Edison’s experiments, the emotive warblings of Adelina Patti and the first recording of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

If you’d like to have a listen to all this, the Public Domain Review recommends starting with its own audio collection, a search for all pre-1923 recordings on Internet Archive, and two projects from the Library of Congress: the National Jukebox and the Citizen DJ project, the latter of which “has plans to do something special with the pre-1923 recordings once they enter the public domain.” You might also have a look at the Association for Recorded Sound Collections’ list of ten notable pre-1923 recordings, which highlights such proto-jazz records as “Crazy Blues” and “Dixieland Jass Band One-Step” (along with the wholly non-jazz work of Enrico Caruso and Pablo Casals).

According to Alexis Rossi at the Internet Archive Blog, the sound recordings just liberated by the Music Modernization act come to about 400,000 in total. Among them you’ll find “early jazz classics like ‘Don’t Care Blues’ by Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds, ‘Ory’s Creole Trombone’ by Kid Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra, and ‘Jazzin’ Babies Blues’ by Ethel Waters.” Rossi also highlights the novelty songs such as Billy Murray’s 1914 rendition of “Fido is a Hot Dog Now,” “which seems to be about a dog who is definitely going to hell.” The Jazz Age soon to come would exhibit a more raucous but also more refined sensibility: as Fitzgerald wrote in 1931, with the era he defined (and that defined him) already past, “It was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire.”

via Mefi

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The Cleanest Recordings of 1920s Louis Armstrong Songs You’ll Ever Hear

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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.

Download 215,000 Japanese Woodblock Prints by Masters Spanning the Tradition’s 350-Year History

If you enjoy Japanese woodblock prints, that appreciation puts you in good company: with Vincent van Gogh, for example, and perhaps even more flatteringly, with many of your fellow readers of Open Culture. So avid is the interest in ukiyo-e, the traditional Japanese “pictures of the floating world,” that you might even have missed one of the large, free online collections we’ve featured over the years. Take, for instance, the one made available by the Van Gogh Museum itself, which features the work of such well-known masters as Katsushika Hokusai, artist of The Great Wave off Kanazawa, and Utagawa Hiroshige, he of the One Hundred Views of Edo.

Edo was the name of Tokyo until 1868, a decade after Hiroshige’s death — an event that itself marked the end of an aesthetically fruitful era for ukiyo-e. But the history of the form itself stretches back to the 17th century, as reflected by the United States Library of Congress’ online collection “Fine Prints: Japanese, pre-1915.”


There you’ll find plenty of Hokusai and Hiroshige, but also others who took the art form in their own directions like Utagawa Yoshifuji, whose prints include depictions of not just his countrymen but visiting Westerners as well. (The results are somewhat more realistic than the ukiyo-e London imagined in 1866 by Utagawa Yoshitora, another member of the same artistic lineage.)

As if all this wasn’t enough, you can also find more than 220,000 Japanese woodblock prints at Ukiyo-e.org. Quite possibly the most expansive such archive yet created, it includes works from Hiroshige and Hokusai’s 19th-century “golden age of printmaking” as well as from the development of the art form early in the century before. Even after its best-known practitioners were gone, ukiyo-e continued to evolve: through Japan’s modernizing Meiji period in the late 19th and early 20th century, through various aesthetic movements in the years up to the Second World War, and even on to our own time, which has seen the emergence even of prolific non-Japanese printmakers.

Of course, these ukiyo-e prints weren’t originally created to be viewed on the internet; the works of Hokusai and Hiroshige may look good on a tablet, but not by their design. Still, they did often have the individual consumer in mind: these are artists “known today for their woodblock prints, but who also excelled at illustrations for deluxe poetry anthologies and popular literature,” writes the Metropolitan Museum of Art curator John Carpenter. His words greet the visitor to the Met’s online collection of more than 650 illustrated Japanese books, which presents ukiyo-e as it would actually have been seen by most people when the form first exploded in popularity — not that, even then, its enthusiasts could imagine how many appreciators it would one day have around the world.

Below you can find a list of prior posts featuring archives of Japanese woodblock prints. Please feel free to explore them at your leisure.

Related content:

Download Hundreds of 19th-Century Japanese Woodblock Prints by Masters of the Tradition

Download Vincent van Gogh’s Collection of 500 Japanese Prints, Which Inspired Him to Create “the Art of the Future”

Download 2,500 Beautiful Woodblock Prints and Drawings by Japanese Masters (1600-1915)

Enter a Digital Archive of 213,000+ Beautiful Japanese Woodblock Prints

The Met Puts 650+ Japanese Illustrated Books Online: Marvel at Hokusai’s One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji and More

Watch the Making of Japanese Woodblock Prints, from Start to Finish, by a Longtime Tokyo Printmaker

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 Black Film Archive: A New Site Highlights 200+ Noteworthy Black Films Made Between 1915-1979

The just launched Black Film Archive is a labor of love for the Criterion Collection, thanks to audience strategist, Maya Cade.

Beginning in June 2020, she began researching films produced between 1915 to 1979 that are available for streaming, and “have something significant to say about the Black experience; speak to Black audiences; and/or have a Black star, writer, producer, or director.”

Thus far, she’s collected over 200 films, spanning the period between 1915’s Black-produced silent slapstick short, Two Knights of Vaudeville and 1978’s starry big budget musical, The Wiz, a commercial flop that “major Hollywood studios used … as a reason to stop investing in Black cinema.”


Cade reasons that the rise of Black independent film in the 80s makes 1979 “feel like a natural stopping point” for the archive. She’s also pushing back against the notion of Black Films as trauma porn:

As debates about Black film’s association with trauma rage on, I hope Black Film Archive can offer a different lens through which to understand Black cinematic history, one that takes into consideration the full weight of the past. Through this lens, it is easy to see that the notion that “Black films are only traumatic” is based on generalizations and impressions of recent times (often pinned to the success of films like 12 Years a Slave) rather than a deeper engagement with history, which reveals that “slave films” constitute only a small percentage of the Black films that have been made. I hope conversations evolve to consider the expansive archive of radical ideas and expression found in Black films’ past.

The collection, which Cade will be updating monthly, has something for everyone — comedy, drama, documentaries, musicals, silent films, foreign films, and yes, Blaxploitation.

Some of the titles — To Sir with LoveA Raisin in the SunShaft — are far from obscure, and you’ll find appearances by many Black performers and documentary subjects whose legacies endure: Paul RobesonCicely TysonSidney PoitierJosephine BakerDorothy DandridgeBilly Dee Williams and Richard PryorMuhammad AliMalcolm XLightnin’ Hopkins….

But the archive is also a wonderful opportunity to discover directors, performers, and films with which you may be utterly unfamiliar.

Black Girl, 1966, was the first feature of Ousmane Sembène, the father of African cinema, and the first feature made in Africa by a sub-Saharan African to attract international notice. It follows a Senegalese domestic worker serving a wealthy white family on the Côte d’Azur. Early on Diouana is seen working in the kitchen, naively dreaming of adventures that surely await once she’s finished preparing “a real African dish” for her employer’s dinner guests:

Maybe we’ll go to Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo. We’ll look in all the pretty stores and when the mistress pays me, I’ll buy pretty dresses, shoes, silk undies, and pretty wigs. And I’ll get my picture taken on the beach, and I’ll send it back to Dakar, and they’ll all die of jealousy!

One of several adaptations of Timothy Shay Arthur’s popular 1854 temperance novel, The Colored Players Film Corporation of Philadelphia’s 1926 melodrama, Ten Nights in a Bar Room, features a star turn by the multi-talented Charles Gilpin, the most successful Black stage performer of the early 20th Century.

The Emperor Jones may have provided Paul Robeson with his iconic, breakthrough role, but the part was first played onstage by Gilpin, who was fired by playwright Eugene O’Neill after it was discovered he was repeatedly swapping out the script’s many instances of the N-word for gentler terms like “Black boy.”

As Indy Week’s Byron Woods notes in a preview of N, Adrienne Earle Pender’s play about O’Neill and Gilpin:

A 1921 review in Negro World concluded, “We imagine if Mr. Gilpin is an intelligent and loyal Negro, his heart must ache and rebel within him as he is forced to belie his race.” When the work was staged in Harlem, Langston Hughes recalled that the audience “howled with laughter.”

The Oscar nominated The Quiet One, from 1948, was the first major American film to position a Black child — 10-year old non-actor Donald Thompson — front and center.

Ostensibly a documentary, it took an unflinching look at the emotionally turbulent existence of a neglected Harlem boy, and offered no easy solutions, even as he begins to come out of his shell at the Wiltwyck School for Boys.

The cast, including a number of students from the Wiltwyck School, is almost entirely Black, with Ulysses Kay’s jazz score providing an urgent pulse to real life scenes of mid-century Harlem.

The white production team featured several high profile, socially conscious names — novelist and film critic James Agee contributed poetic commentary and photographer Helen Levitt was one of two principal camera people.

Currently, the Black Film Archive is organized by decade, though we hope one day this might be expanded to encompass genres, as well as a search option that would allow viewers to discover work by director and performers.

For now, Cade’s curator picks are an excellent place to begin your explorations.

This mammoth undertaking is a self-funded one-woman operation. Donations are welcome, as are paid subscriptions to the Black Film Archive Substack.

Related Content: 

Watch Free Films by African American Filmmakers in the Criterion Collection … and the New Civil Rights Film, Just Mercy

Watch the First-Ever Kiss on Film Between Two Black Actors, Just Honored by the Library of Congress (1898)

Watch the Pioneering Films of Oscar Micheaux, America’s First Great African-American Filmmaker

Watch Lime Kiln Club Field Day, One of the Earliest Surviving Feature Films with an All Black Cast (1913)

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

Stream 160 In-Depth Radio Interviews with Clive James, Pico Iyer, Greil Marcus & Other Luminaries from the Marketplace of Ideas Archive

Would you like to to hear a long-form conversation about the history of the vinyl LP? Or about the history of human rights? About the plight of book reviewing in America? The wild excesses of the art market? The nature of boredom? The true meaning of North Korean propaganda? What it’s like to live in Bangkok? What it’s like to go on a road trip with David Foster Wallace? The answer to all of the above: of course you do. And now you can hear these conversations and many more besides in the complete archive of the public radio show The Marketplace of Ideas, which has just now come available to stream on Youtube.

How, you may wonder, did I get such early word of this interview trove’s availability? Because, in the years before I began writing here on Open Culture, I created, produced, and hosted the show myself. The project grew, in a sense, out of my dissatisfaction with the radio interviews I’d been hearing, the vast bulk of which struck me as too brief, fragmentary, and programmatic to be of any real value.


What’s more, it was often painfully obvious how little interest in the subject under discussion the interviewers had themselves. With The Marketplace of Ideas, I set out to do the opposite of practically everything I’d heard done on the radio before.

Like all worthwhile goals, mine was paradoxical: to conduct interviews of the deepest possible depth as well as the widest possible breadth. On one week the topic might be evolutionary economics, on another the philosophical quarrel between David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on another the history of American film comedy, on another the legacy of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and on another still the ascent of Californian wine over French. (This principle also applied to the political spectrum: I delighted in bringing on, say, the granddaughter of Barry Goldwater as well as a former member of the Weather Underground.) An interesting person is, as they say, an interested person, and throughout the show’s run I trusted my listeners to be interesting people.

The same went for my interviewees, whatever their cultural domain: novelists like Alexander Theroux, Tom McCarthy, Joshua Cohen, and Geoff Dyer; scientists like David P. Barash, Alan Sokal (he of the “Sokal Hoax”), and Sean Carroll; critics like James Wood, Greil Marcus, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Dave Kehr, and J. Hoberman; economists like Tyler Cowen (twice), Robin Hanson, Steven E. Landsburg, and Tim Harford (twice); biographers of Brian Eno, Nick Drake, and Michel de Montaigne;  translators of Jorge Luis Borges, César Aira, and Robert Walser; broadcasters like Peter Sagal, Robert Pogue Harrison (of Entitled Opinions), Jesse Thorn, and Michael Silverblatt; philosophers like Kwame Anthony Appiah and Simon Blackburn; technologists like Steve Wozniak and Kevin Kelly; filmmakers like Ramin Bahrani (director of the existential Werner Herzog-narrated plastic-bag short previously featured here on Open Culture), So Yong Kim, Andrew Bujalski, Aaron Katz; and musicians like Nick Currie, a.k.a Momus (twice), Jack Hues of Wang Chung, and Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi.

The Marketplace of Ideas aired between 2007 and 2011, and the passage of a decade since the show’s end prompted me to take a look — or rather a listen — back at it. So  did the fact that a fair few of its guests have since shuffled off this mortal coil: Arts & Letters Daily founder Denis Dutton, film critic Peter Brunette, literary scholar Angus Fletcher, documentarian Pepita Ferrari, writer and editor Daniel Menaker, cultural polymath Clive James. That interview with James was a dream fulfilled, due not just to my personal enthusiasm for his writing but the ideal of intellectual omnivorousness he represented — an ideal toward which I strove on the show, and continue to strive in my pursuits today.  Even more than our conversation itself, I fondly remember an exchange after we finished recording but before we hung up the phone. He thanked me for actually reading his book, and I told him I’d thought all interviewers did the same. His response: “That’s the first naïve thing you’ve said all hour.”

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebooks Get Digitized: Where to Read the Renaissance Man’s Manuscripts Online

From the hand of Leonardo da Vinci came the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, among other art objects of intense reverence and even worship. But to understand the mind of Leonardo da Vinci, one must immerse oneself in his notebooks. Totaling some 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, they record something of every aspect of the Renaissance man’s intellectual and daily life: studies for artworks, designs for elegant buildings and fantastical machines, observations of the world around him, lists of his groceries and his debtors. Intending their eventual publication, Leonardo left his notebooks to his pupil Francesco Melzi, by the time of whose own death half a century later little had been done with them.

Absent a proper steward, Leonardo’s notebooks scattered across the world. Six centuries later, their surviving pages constitute a series of codices in the possession of such entities as the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, the British Museum, the Institut de France, and Bill Gates.


In recent years, they and their collaborating organizations have made efforts to open Leonardo’s notebooks to the world, digitizing them, translating them, and organizing them for convenient browsing on the web. Here on Open Culture, we’ve previously featured the Codex Arundel as made available to the public by the British Library, Codex Atlanticus by the Visual Agency, and the three-part Codex Forster by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Other collections of Leonardo’s notebooks made available to view online include the Madrid Codices at the Biblioteca Nacional de España, the Codex Trivulzianus at the Archivo Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana, and the Codex on the Flight of Birds at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. (Published as a standalone book, his Treatise on Painting is available to download at Project Gutenberg.) Even so, many of the pages Leonardo wrote haven’t yet made it to the internet, and even when they do, generations of interpretive work — well beyond reversing his “mirror writing” — will surely remain. Much as humanity is only now putting some of his inventions to the test, the full publication of his notebooks remains a work in progress. Leonardo himself would surely understand: after all, one can’t cultivate a mind like his without patience.

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The Elegant Mathematics of Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci’s Most Famous Drawing: An Animated Introduction

Download the Sublime Anatomy Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci: Available Online, or in a Great iPad App

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Leonardo da Vinci’s Handwritten Resume (1482)

Leonardo Da Vinci’s To Do List (Circa 1490) Is Much Cooler Than Yours

Why Did Leonardo da Vinci Write Backwards? A Look Into the Ultimate Renaissance Man’s “Mirror Writing”

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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 Letterform Archive Launches a New Online Archive of Graphic Design, Featuring 9,000 Hi-Fi Images

An online design museum made by and for designers? The concept seems obvious, but has taken decades in internet years for the reality to fully emerge in the Letterform Archive. Now that it has, we can see why. Good design may look simple, but no one should be fooled into thinking it’s easy. “After years of development and months of feedback,” write the creators of the Letterform Archive online design museum, “we’re opening up the Online Archive to everyone. This project is a labor of love from everyone on our staff, and many generous volunteers, and we hope it provides a source of beautiful distraction and inspiration to all who love letters.”

That’s letters as in fonts, not epistles, and there are thousands of them in the archive. But there are also thousands of photographs, lithographs, silkscreens, etc. representing the height of modern simplicity. This and other unifying threads run through the collection of the Letterform Archive, which offers “unprecedented access… with nearly 1,500 objects and 9,000 hi-fi images.”


You’ll find in the Archive the sleek elegance of 1960s Olivetti catalogs, the iconic militancy of Emory Douglas’ designs for The Black Panther newspaper, and the eerily stark militancy of the “SILENCE=DEATH” t-shirt from the 1980s AIDS crisis.

The site was built around the ideal of “radical accessibility,” with the aim of capturing “a sense of what it’s like to visit the Archive” (which lives permanently in San Francisco). But the focus is not on the casual onlooker — Letterform Archive online caters specifically to graphic designers, which makes its interface even simpler, more elegant, and easier to use for everyone, coincidentally (or not).

The graphic design focus also means there are functions specific to the discipline that designers won’t find in other online image libraries: “we encourage you to use the search filters: click on each category to explore disciplines like lettering, and formats like type specimens, or combine filters like decades and countries to narrow your view to a specific time and place.”

From the radical typography of Dada to the radical 60s zine scene to the sleek designs (and Neins) found in a 1987 Apple Logo Standards pamphlet, the museum has something for everyone interested in recent graphic design history and typology. But it’s not all sleek simplicity. There are also rare artifacts of elaborately intricate design, like the Persian Yusef and Zulaikha manuscript, below, dating from between 1880 and 1910. You’ll find dozens more such treasures in the Letterform Archive here.

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

The Archive of Healing Is Now Online: UCLA’s Digital Database Provides Access to Thousands of Traditional & Alternative Healing Methods

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Folk medicine is, or should be, antithetical to capitalism, meaning it should not be possible to trademark, copyright, or otherwise own and sell plants and natural remedies to which everyone has access. The entire reason such practices developed over the course of millennia was to help communities of close affiliation survive and thrive, not to foster market competition between companies and individuals. The impulse to profit from suffering has distorted what we think of as healing, such that a strictly allopathic, or “Western,” approach to medicine relies on ethics of exclusion, exploitation, and outright harm.

What we tend to think of as modern medicine, the Archive of Healing writes, “is object-oriented (pharmaceuticals, technologically driven) and structured by historical injustice against women and people of color.” The Archive, a new digital project from the University of California, Los Angeles, offers “one of the most comprehensive databases of medicinal folklore in the world,” Valentina Di Liscia writes at Hyperallergic. “The interactive, searchable website boasts hundreds of thousands of entries describing cures, rituals, and healing methods spanning more than 200 years and seven continents.”


In countries like the United States, where healthcare is treated as a scarce commodity millions of people cannot afford, access to knowledge about effective, age-old natural wisdom has become critical. There may be no treatments for COVID-19 in the database, but there are likely traditional remedies, rituals, practices, treatments, ointments, etc. for just about every other illness one might encounter. The archive was curated over a period of more than thirty years by “a team of researchers at UCLA, working under the direction of Dr. Wayland Hand and then Dr. Michael Owen Jones,” the site notes in its brief history.

The material from the collection, which was originally called the “archive of traditional medicine,” came from “data on healing from over 3,200 publications, six university archives, as well as first-hand and second-hand information from anthropological and folkloric fieldnotes.” In 2016, when Dr. Delgado Shorter took over as director of the program, he “reorganized it with an eye to social sharing and allowing for users to submit new data and comment on existing data,” notes UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture in an interview with Shorter, who describes the project’s aims thus:

The whole goal here is to democratize what we think of as healing and knowledge about healing and take it across cultures in a way that’s respectful and gives attention to intellectual property rights.

This may seem like a delicate balancing act, between the scholarly, the folkloric, and the realms of rights, remuneration, and social power. The Archive strikes it with an ambitious set of tenets you can read here, including an emphasis on offering traditional and Indigenous healing practices “outside of often expensive allopathic and pharmaceutical approaches, and not as alternatives but as complementary modalities.”

The archive states as one of its theoretical bases that health should be treated “as a social goal with social methods that affirm relationality and kinship.” Those wishing to get involved with the Archive as partners or advisory board members can learn how at their About page, which also features the following disclaimer: “Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained herein is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” Use the information wisely, at your own risk, in other words.

To use the Archive of Healing, you will need to register with the site first.

via Hyperallergic

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

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