Tag Archives | History

The “Science” Behind The Plague Doctor’s Costume


The plague doctor costume was designed to protect the wearer from airborne illnesses.

Katharine Trendacosta via io9:

First up is the wide-brimmed leather hat. As we’ve discussed before, no job in the 17th century really meant anything unless it had an official hat. Lawyers had wigs, the clergy had a whole mess of headgear, doctors had these. Because you know how disease hates hats.

The birdlike mask—which may predate the outfit by several centuries—was a gas mask. Sort of. de Lorme’s description says the beak should be “filled with perfume” and herbs stuffed into it. That’s because of the miasma theory of disease.

Miasma theory posited that disease was carried by a cloud of poisonous vapor in the air, which was created by decay and could be identified by a bad smell. Following the logic that bad smelling air carried disease, it makes perfect sense that you could “cure” the air by making it smell good.

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Copyright Terms And How Historical Journalism Is Disappearing

EP Journalism Prize 2011 winners are from France, Italy, Finland and Germany

Parker Higgins writes at Techdirt:

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced last Wednesday the “Chronicling America” contest to create projects out of historical newspaper data. The contest is supposed to showcase the history of the United States through the lens of a popular (and somewhat ephemeral) news format. But looking at the limits of the archival data, another story emerges: the dark cloud of copyright’s legal uncertainty is threatening the ability of amateur and even professional historians to explore the last century as they might explore the ones before it.

Consider that the National Digital Newspaper Program holds the history of American newspapers only up until 1922. (It originally focused on material from 1900-1910 and gradually expanded outwards to cover material from as early as 1836.) Those years may seem arbitrary—and it makes sense that there would be some cut-off date for a historical archive—but for copyright nerds 1922 rings some bells: it’s the latest date from which people can confidently declare a published work is in the public domain.

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Caveat Emptor: Do You Even irl, bro?

“The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain.”

via. Modern Mythology.

Have you ever thought about how you will vanish from the world?

If you do, you might appreciate an immediate irony in that our digital simulacra are the very things we’d need to delete to disappear from the world. Being shut offline has a different significance now than it did even just 10 years ago. What does that deletion actually mean, and more importantly, what lies under the anxiety that would drive us to “delete ourselves” in the first place? If virtual deletion silences the real, can we finally say the one has subsumed the other — or more accurately, can we rather say that virtual and real has been shown as it really is, a false binary?

Like Debord says in Society of the Spectacle, only the spectacle is real, only the performance of identity is a “real” identity.… Read the rest

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Newly Digitized ‘Phenakistoscope’ Animations


Richard Balzer is an early optical device collector, with collections ranging “from camera obscuras and praxinoscopes to anamorphic mirrors and zoetropes.” He’s also amassed quite an interesting collection of phenakistoscopes, early animation devices “that used the persistence of vision principle to create an illusion of motion.”

Balzer and his assistant, Brian Duffy, have digitized these morbidly surreal animation relics.

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The 25 Most Important Zombie Movies Ever Made

dawn of the dead main 25

Jim Vorel via Paste Magazine:

From the living dead to the walking dead to the typing dead, zombies have completely and utterly suffused 21st century culture. And that’s a pretty weird phenomena, when you think about it.

It’s not like this was always the case. Go back to the ’80s, and to wax poetic about George Romero-esque zombie films would have been the hallmark of a nerdy, acne-ridden high school student in a John Hughes movie. The idea that a TV show like The Walking Dead could be one-upping Sunday Night football in TV ratings? That would seem patently impossible.

Yes, zombies have come a long way, as has our appreciation for them. We live in a society that has become profoundly geekier in the last 15 years, and adopted the once secretive and insular totems of geek culture as its own. But it’s not just us who has evolved, it’s the zombies themselves—the creatures, their films and the people who made them.

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Jel Ena: Through the Gates of Anhedonia by Decadence Darling

Jel Ena "Sanctum Infernum", 2015

Jel Ena “Sanctum Infernum”, 2015

Jel Ena “Sanctum Infernum”
October 29 – December 15
Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn NY


Jel Ena: Through the Gates of Anhedonia  by Decadence Darling

Death is an unknown pleasure. Pleasure is not the addition of something we are without, it is the realization of something that is within. It is through “death” that we awaken this inherent pleasure. When we seek pleasure, small or large, we examine ourselves accordingly. We take inventory, observe patterns, evaluate and assess strengths and weaknesses. Through all of this we judge ourselves. We determine how much of this information we accept or reject. In other words, seeking pleasure is a process of positive acceptance and negative rejection. But what if those things we are adverse to are a part of who we truly are? To dispose of them would make us incomplete. Perhaps in this pursuit of Self we deny our fullness and the thing we wished we were is an empty object full of pain.… Read the rest

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The oldest written song ever discovered — The Hurrian Hymn (c. 1400BC)

via YouTube:

This unique video, features my first of 2 arrangements for solo lyre, of the 3400 year old “Hurrian Hymn no.6”, which was discovered in Ugarit in Syria in the early 1950s, and was preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, written in the Cuniform text of the ancient Hurrian language – The Hurrian Hymn (catalogued as Text H6) was discovered in Ugarit, Syria, in the early 1950s, and was preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, written in the Cuniform text of the ancient Hurrian language – except from a few earlier Sumarian fragmentary instructional musical texts from c.1950 BCE (Musical Instructions for Lipit-Ishtar, King of Justice) the Hurrian Hymn it is the oldest written song yet known, in History!

Although about 29 musical texts were discovered at Ugarit, only this text, (text H6), was in a sufficient state of preservation to allow for modern academic musical reconstruction.

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100-Year-Old Box of Negatives Discovered Frozen In Block of Antarctica’s Ice

Conservators of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered “22 never-before-seen cellulose nitrate negatives documenting the life of Antarctic explorers a 100 years back.” They were preserved in a block of ice and had to be painstakingly restored.

Check out Bored Panda for more information on the restoration process.

Here are some of the results:



Alexander Stevens on Aurora deck, chief scientist and geologist.

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Gynecological Gymnastics from Outer Space (1895)


Learn about gynecological exercises with charming aliens.

via The Public Domain Review:

A set of rather uncanny diagrams from Die Heilgymnastik in der Gynaekologie: und die mechanische Behandlung von Erkrankungen des Uterus und seiner Adnexe nach Thure Brandt (1895), translated from German as “The physiotherapy in gynecology and the mechanical treatment of diseases of the uterus and its appendages by Thure Brandt”. As the title implies the gynecological exercises are based on those invented by the Swedish obstetrician and gynecologist, Thure Brandt (1819-1895). Brandt began treating women in 1861, combining massage, stretching, and general exercise as a form of treating gynecological conditions. After his methods were examined in Jena by German gynecologists in 1886, they became widely used in Europe. The images in this particular text are eye-catching today less for the gynecological technique they depict but more the bizarre similarity between the rakishly thin figures employed in demonstrating the exercises (no doubt an attempt to de-sexualise the images) and the figure of the so-called “Grey Alien” – thin body, huge head, large eyes – which wouldn’t hit popular consciousness for another 65 years.

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