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The Triumph of the Humanities By Stanley Fish, New York Times
|| 6/13/2011 || 11:50 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Geohumanities, the recently published book that features my map “The Modern Geographer” on the cover, was reviewed in the New York Times by Stanley Fish:



June 13, 2011, 8:30 PM

The Triumph of the Humanities

By STANLEY FISH

Our house in the western Catskills overlooks the Pepacton Reservoir, a 20-mile ribbon of water between Margaretville and Downsville. Maps on the Internet, depending on their scale and detail, will show you where the reservoir is in relation to nearby towns and roads. What they won’t show you, although every resident of the area knows about them, are the four towns — Arena, Shavertown, Union Grove and Pepacton — that were flooded in the middle ‘50s so that the reservoir could be constructed. (Today, after more than 50 years, resentment against New York City remains strong.)

The maps and pictures of the reservoir are determinedly linear; the eye follows the water in its journey down Route 30 toward the city. But for the the old-timers, and the new-timers who have been caught up in the romance of the lost towns, the eye stops and looks down to what are now the geological layers of civilizations, one on the surface and claiming a literal, no-nonsense empirical reality (“If you want get from Andes to Downsville, you can travel on either side of the reservoir”), and the other below the surface, where lie subterranean Brigadoons that emerge not every hundred years but whenever the reservoir gets so low that pieces of a drowned culture suddenly and unnervingly come into view. At those moments the eye simply cannot travel the straight line encouraged by visible coherences and road signs; the natural pull of forward progress is forestalled and one begins to ruminate on what lies beneath our every step as we raise our feet to take the next one.

There is now a (relatively) new discipline in which this breaking down of time into spatial units that are read vertically rather than horizontally is the obligatory gesture. It calls itself GeoHumanities and its project is nicely encapsulated in the title of one of the essays in a collection that officially announces the emergence of a field of study. The collection is called “GeoHumanities: Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place”; the essay (by Edward L. Ayers, an historian and president of the University of Richmond) is entitled “Mapping Time.”

Ayers’s project is to map the changes that followed upon the emancipation of the slaves after the Civil War. He and his colleagues begin with a simple map and then they locate populations on the landscape and “put down one layer after another: of race, of wealth, of literacy, of water courses, of roads, of railways, of soil type, of voting patterns, of social structure.”

The layered picture that results can then be “read” and a story can be told, the story of complex relationships that are frozen by the analysis but which, of course, are really in motion. The next step is to acknowledge the motion by using cinematic techniques that present the passage of time as spatial units that succeed one another. “By converting time to motion,” says Ayers, “we can visualize the passage of time (as one watches the hands of a clock move).”

Ayers calls this technique of representation “deep contingency,” and he acknowledges its artificiality. The metaphor of a layered reality “is a fiction of course, since the layers continually interact and the ‘top’ layer of humans constantly changes the ‘bottom’ layer of landscape; but it is a useful fiction, since it reminds us of the structural depth of time and experience.” The project is a synthesis of geography (now renamed Geographic Information Science, or GIS) and history: “GIS is about patterns and structures; history is about motion; by integrating the two, we can see layers of events, layers of the consequences of unpredictability.”

That is, we can read events not merely historically, as the product of the events preceding them, but geologically, as the location of sedimented patterns of culture, economics, politics, agriculture. What is being attempted is a reorientation of perception, an alternative way of interpreting the world in which “space is not merely in the service of time, but has a poetics of its own, which reveals itself through a geographical or topological imagination rather than a historical one” (Paul Smethurst, “The Postmodern Chronotope”).

The interplay in these quotations between a literary and a geographical vocabulary tells us what GeoHumanities is all about; it is the elaboration, by methods derived from the humanities, of “the stratified record upon which we set our feet” (the title of another essay and a quote from Thomas Mann). It is the realization, in a style of analysis, of the “spatial turn,” a “critical shift that divested geography of its largely passive role as history’s ‘stage’ and brought to the fore intersections between the humanities and the earth sciences” (Peta Mitchell in “GeoHumanities”).

“Intersections” is perhaps too weak a word, because it suggests two disciplines that retain their distinctiveness but collaborate occasionally on a specific project. The stronger assertion, made by many in the volume, is that the division between empirical/descriptive disciplines and interpretive disciplines is itself a fiction and one that stands in the way of the production of knowledge.

An apparently empirical project like geography is, and always has been, interpretive through and through. “The map has always been a political agent”(Lize Mogel), has always had a “generative power” (Emily Eliza Scott), and that power can only be released and studied by those who approach their work in the manner of literary critics. Geography “demands a reader who is at once an archeologist, geologist and geographer, a reader who … is at all times attentive to the stratification of history, memory, language, and landscape and who can read obliquely through their layers” (Peta Mitchell).

If interpretive methods and perspectives are necessary to the practice of geography, they are no less necessary to other projects supposedly separate from the project of the humanities. And that is why, in addition to GeoHumanities, we now have Biohumanities (“the humanities not only comment on the significance or implications of biological knowledge, but add to our understanding of biology itself” — Karola Stotz and Paul E. Griffiths), Disability Studies (of which the X-Men films might be both a representation and an instance), Metahistory (the study of the irreducibly narrative basis of historical “fact”), Law and Literature (the laying bare of the rhetorical and literary strategies giving form to every assertion in the law), Cultural Anthropology (an inquiry into the very possibility of anthropological observation that begins by acknowledging the inescapability of perspective and the ubiquity of interpretation), Cultural Sociology (“the commitment to hermeneutically reconstructing social texts in a rich and persuasive way” — Jeffrey C. Alexander and Philip Smith), and other hybrids already emergent and soon to emerge.

What this all suggests is that while we have been anguishing over the fate of the humanities, the humanities have been busily moving into, and even colonizing, the fields that were supposedly displacing them. In the ‘70s and the ‘80s the humanities exported theory to the social sciences and (with less influence) to the sciences; many disciplines saw a pitched battle between the new watchwords — perspective, contingency, dispersion, multi-vocality, intertextuality — and the traditional techniques of dispassionate observation, the collection of evidence, the drawing of warranted conclusions and the establishing of solid fact. Now the dust has settled and the invaded disciplines have incorporated much of what they resisted. Propositions that once seemed outlandish — all knowledge is mediated, even our certainties are socially constructed — are now routinely asserted in precincts where they were once feared as the harbingers of chaos and corrosive relativism.

One could say then that the humanities are the victors in the theory wars; nearly everyone now dances to their tune. But this conceptual triumph has not brought with it a proportionate share of resources or institutional support. Perhaps administrators still think of the humanities as the province of precious insights that offer little to those who are charged with the task of making sense of the world. Volumes like “GeoHumanities” tell a different story, and it is one that cannot be rehearsed too often.


Source: New York Times



Feature in today’s Weekend Pass Section of the Washington Post’s Express Newspaper: “Geo-Beautiful”
|| 10/28/2010 || 6:08 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Screengrab from the PDF of today EXPRESS newspaper

click to view the full page

Earlier this afternoon I got a call from a friend informing me that one of my maps was published in today’s Washington Post Express Newspaper. Judging by the advertisement that shows up on the full page spread, I think someone at the Express has a sense of humor.



My Artist Talk At The Old Print Gallery
|| 10/16/2010 || 12:08 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

background map: Park La Brea Quilt #2

Yesterday, Friday, October 15th, I gave an artist talk at the Old Print Gallery in conjunction with my exhibition. The screen grab above is from a special opening slide that I made for the talk. Its the first HTML page that I have used the auto-refresh tag. It was designed to cycle through different maps every 10 seconds before the lecture began. I might add this feature to the front page of the website now that I see that it works. The talk lasted a little over an hour and included a brief Q & A at the end. Thank you to everyone who came.


Below are the “slides” that I used for my presentation and most are hyperlinked to their original entries:



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How the Scythians Used Hemp – Paragraphs 73-75 from Book 4 of The Histories of Herodotus [circa 440 BC]
|| 4/2/2010 || 4:05 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the influential works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that were known around the Mediterranean and Western Asia at that time. These paragraphs are about the Scythians, who were an Ancient Iranian people of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who throughout Classical Antiquity dominated the Pontic-Caspian steppe in present day Kazakhstan, southern Russia, and Ukraine. Below is how the Scythians used hemp about 2,450 years ago:


73. Thus they bury their kings; but as for the other Scythians, when they die their nearest relations carry them round laid in wagons to their friends in succession; and of them each one when he receives the body entertains those who accompany it, and before the corpse they serve up of all things about the same quantity as before the others. Thus private persons are carried about for forty days, and then they are buried: and after burying them the Scythians cleanse themselves in the following way:–they soap their heads and wash them well, and then, for their body, they set up three stakes leaning towards one another and about them they stretch woolen felt coverings, and when they have closed them as much as possible they throw stones heated red-hot into a basin placed in the middle of the stakes and the felt coverings. 73. [1] οὕτω μὲν τοὺς βασιλέας θάπτουσι· τοὺς δὲ ἄλλους Σκύθας, ἐπεὰν ἀποθάνωσι, περιάγουσι οἱ ἀγχοτάτω προσήκοντες κατὰ τοὺς φίλους ἐν ἀμάξῃσι κειμένους. τῶν δὲ ἕκαστος ὑποδεκόμενος εὐωχέει τοὺς ἑπομένους, καὶ τῷ νεκρῷ ἁπάντων παραπλησίως παρατίθησι ὅσα τοῖσι ἄλλοισι. ἡμέρας δὲ τεσσεράκοντα οὕτω οἱ ἰδιῶται περιάγονται, ἔπειτα θάπτονται. [2] θάψαντες δὲ οἱ Σκύψαι καθαίρονται τρόπῳ τοιῷδε. σμησάμενοι τὰς κεφαλὰς καὶ ἐκπλυνάμενοι ποιεῦσι περὶ τὸ σῶμα τάδε ἐπεὰν ξύλα στήσωσι τρία ἐς ἄλληλα κεκλιμένα, περὶ ταῦτα πίλους εἰρινέους περιτείνουσι, συμφράξαντες δὲ ὡς μάλιστα λίθους ἐκ πυρὸς διαφανέας ἐσβάλλουσι ἐς σκάφην κειμένην ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ξύλων τε καὶ τῶν πίλων.


74. Now they have hemp growing in their land, which is very like flax except in thickness and in height, for in these respects the hemp is much superior. This grows both of itself and with cultivation; and of it the Thracians even make garments, which are very like those made of flaxen thread, so that he who was not specially conversant with it would not be able to decide whether the garments were of flax or of hemp; and he who had not before seen stuff woven of hemp would suppose that the garment was made of flax. 74. [1] ἔστι δέ σφι κάνναβις φυομένη ἐν τῇ χώρῃ πλὴν παχύτητος καὶ μεγάθεος τῷ λίνῳ ἐμφερεστάτη· ταύτῃ δὲ πολλῷ ὑπερφέρει ἡ κάνναβις. αὕτη καὶ αὐτομάτη καὶ σπειρομένη φύεται, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῆς Θρήικες μὲν καὶ εἵματα ποιεῦνται τοῖσι λινέοισι ὁμοιότατα· οὐδ᾽ ἄν, ὅστις μὴ κάρτα τρίβων εἴη αὐτῆς, διαγνοίη λίνου ἢ καννάβιος ἐστί· ὃς δὲ μὴ εἶδε κω τὴν κανναβίδα, λίνεον δοκήσει εἶναι τὸ εἷμα.


75. The Scythians then take the seed of this hemp and creep under the felt coverings, and then they throw the seed upon the stones which have been heated red-hot: and it burns like incense and produces a vapour so think that no vapour-bath in Hellas would surpass it: and the Scythians being delighted with the vapour-bath howl like wolves. This is to them instead of washing, for in fact they do not wash their bodies at all in water. Their women however pound with a rough stone the wood of the cypress and cedar and frankincense tree, pouring in water with it, and then with this pounded stuff, which is thick, they plaster over all their body and also their face; and not only does a sweet smell attach to them by reason of this, but also when they take off the plaster on the next day, their skin is clean and shining.

75. [1] ταύτης ὦν οἱ Σκύθαι τῆς καννάβιος τὸ σπέρμα ἐπεὰν λάβωσι, ὑποδύνουσι ὑπὸ τοὺς πίλους, καὶ ἔπειτα ἐπιβάλλουσι τὸ σπέρμα ἐπὶ τοὺς διαφανέας λίθους τῷ πυρί· τὸ δὲ θυμιᾶται ἐπιβαλλόμενον καὶ ἀτμίδα παρέχεται τοσαύτην ὥστε Ἑλληνικὴ οὐδεμία ἄν μιν πυρίη ἀποκρατήσειε. [2] οἱ δὲ Σκύθαι ἀγάμενοι τῇ πυρίῃ ὠρύονται. τοῦτό σφι ἀντὶ λουτροῦ ἐστι. οὐ γὰρ δὴ λούονται ὕδατι τὸ παράπαν τὸ σῶμα. [3] αἱ δὲ γυναῖκες αὐτῶν ὕδωρ παραχέουσαι κατασώχουσι περὶ λίθον τρηχὺν τῆς κυπαρίσσου καὶ κέδρου καὶ λιβάνου ξύλου, καὶ ἔπειτα τὸ κατασωχόμενον τοῦτο παχὺ ἐὸν καταπλάσσονται πᾶν τὸ σῶμα καὶ τὸ πρόσωπον· καὶ ἅμα μὲν εὐωδίη σφέας ἀπὸ τούτου ἴσχει, ἅμα δὲ ἀπαιρέουσαι τῇ δευτέρη ἡμέρῃ τὴν καταπλαστὺν γίνονται καθαραὶ καὶ λαμπραί. 


[ source ]



The Pentagon Timelapse Animated GIF (2001-2005)
|| 9/1/2009 || 5:00 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Still frame from The Pentagon Timelapse Animated GIF featuring USGS aerial photography from 2005Still frame from The Pentagon Timelapse Animated GIF featuring USGS aerial photography from 2005
Click the image above to watch the animation

Last night I was going through one of my external hard drives and rediscovered a cache of “old” satellite imagery. I rarely publish any entries that use satellite imagery due to copyright issues because, generally speaking, the company that owns the satellite also owns all the pixels and this prevents me from legally creating derivative works. Today, however, I decided to test the boundaries with this legacy satellite imagery of the Pentagon and feel that this creation is protected under the fair use doctrine of US copyright law. You can always contact GeoEye if you are interested in purchasing satellite imagery from the IKONOS satellite.

The Animated GIF below features 9 frames consisting of 7 satellite images from the IKONOS Satellite (2001-2002) and two public domain aerial photographs from the USGS (2002 & 2005). It begins with satellite imagery taken four days before 9/11/01 and ends with a USGS aerial photograph taken in September 2005. The frames in between show the aftermath and the subsequent rebuilding of the Pentagon. I did my best to line up the building in my image editing program, but it’s not 100% perfect due to the angle in which some of the imagery was taken.


I have chosen to place the The Pentagon Timelapse Animated GIF “below the fold” so that visitors to the front page of this website are not downloading the somewhat large file. Please be patient while it downloads……

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Revisiting the Dupont Lenz Quilt Animation
|| 7/17/2009 || 7:16 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Embedded from Facebook

In August of 2007 I posted the Quicktime Movie of Dupont Lenz Quilt Animation on this blog. I had not joined YouTube yet, nor had I released the contents of this website to search engines, so only recently have I begun to port some of my animations to other websites. Today I decided to upload the animation to Facebook and to YouTube.

The animation uses same layout from my map “Dupont Circle Quilt 2005.” The 30 second animation features two 15 second segments of the same imagery shown from two different perspectives. The modified aerial photography of Dupont Circle in Washington, DC is magnified using transparent glass spheres to create unique cartographic perspective.


Related Animations:

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Saint Louis Art Museum Quilt
|| 12/23/2008 || 12:12 am || Comments Off on Saint Louis Art Museum Quilt || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :
Saint Louis Art Museum Quilt by Nikolas R. Schiller

I recently read about the proposed expansion of the Saint Louis Art Museum and was reminded of all the hours I spent there when I was a kid. From school field trips to miscellaneous enrichment visits with friends & family friends, the museum was an integral part of my upbringing. My mom even has a VHS tape of me that was recorded there when I was 8 years old (1988). If my memory serves me right, I was enthusiastically talking about the notion of living in Egypt two thousand years ago, being a pharaoh, and the pyramids. Its been nearly 5 years since I set foot inside the museum and I wonder how much different it will look with the new wing? Probably not as awesome as it looked during the 1904 World’s Fair when it was the Palace of the Fine Arts, but I digress. Times do change and when I visit family during the holidays I’m going to inquire about the location of that VHS tape. I’m also going to look into my digital photo archives because I believe I took some nighttime time-lapse photos of the exterior of the museum in 2002. They’ll be a good follow-up entry.

View the Google Map of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Saint Louis, Missouri

: detail :

View the rest of the details:

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On page 149 of Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism by Nato Thompson and Independent Curators International
|| 12/3/2008 || 12:20 pm || Comments Off on On page 149 of Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism by Nato Thompson and Independent Curators International || ||

Today I received my copy of Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism by Nato Thompson and Independent Curators International. As I mentioned before, my Pentagon Quilt #3 was included in Daniel Tucker’s WE ARE HERE Map Archive that is featured in Independent Curators International traveling exhibition. The catalog for the exhibition and goes on sale next month when the exhibit starts its two year international tour. My map is on page 149 next to Lize Mogel & Dario Azzellini’s The Privatization of War: Colombia as Laboratory and Iraq as Large-Scale Application.

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My map of the Pentagon to be featured in the “We Are Here” Map Archive in the touring exhibition “Experimental Geography” [2008-2010]
|| 8/15/2008 || 1:39 pm || Comments Off on My map of the Pentagon to be featured in the “We Are Here” Map Archive in the touring exhibition “Experimental Geography” [2008-2010] || ||

I was contacted by Daniel Tucker in January of this year to participate in his map archive. I thought it was a great idea so I offered my Pentagon Quilt #3 map. I received notification this week that the map archive starts its tour for the next two years with the exhibit called Experimental Geography. Here’s the blurb from the website:

EXPERIMENTAL GEOGRAPHY
Geography benefits from the study of specific histories, sites, and memories. Every estuary, land fill, and cul-de-sac has a story to tell. The task of the geographer is to alert us to what is directly in front of us, while the task of the experimental geographer, an amalgam of scientist, artist, and explorer, is to do so in a manner that deploys aesthetics, ambiguity, poetry, and a dash of empiricism. This exhibition explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the juncture where the two realms collide (and possibly make a new field altogether).

The manifestations of “experimental geography” (a term coined by geographer Trevor Paglen in 2002) run the gamut of contemporary art practice today: sewn cloth cities that spill out of suitcases, bus tours through water-treatment centers, performers climbing up the sides of buildings, and sound works capturing the buzz of electric waves on the power grid. In the hands of contemporary artists, the study of humanity’s engagement with the earth’s surface becomes a riddle best solved in experimental fashion. The exhibition presents a panoptic view of this new practice, through a wide range of mediums including interactive computer kiosks, sound and video installations, photography, sculpture, and experimental cartography.

The approaches used by the artists featured in Experimental Geography range from a poetic conflation of humanity and the earth to more empirical studies of our planet. For example, Ilana Halperin explores the intersection of personal, historic, and geologic time, as may be seen in the photograph of her stooping at the edge of natural hot springs to boil a small cup of milk. Creating projects that are more empirically minded, the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), a research organization, examines the nature and extent of human interaction with the earth’s surface, embracing a multidisciplinary approach to fulfilling its mission. Using pragmatic skill sets culled from the toolbox of geography, CLUI forces a reading of the American landscape (which includes traffic in Los Angeles, submerged cities, and the broadcast towers in the San Gabriel Mountains) that refamiliarizes the viewer with the overlooked details of their everyday experience.

Experimental Geography is curated by Nato Thompson, curator and producer at Creative Time in New York, and is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.

Featuring:
Francis Al
AREA Chicago
The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI)
the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)
kanarinka (Catherine D’lgnazio)
e-Xplo
Ilana Halperin
Lize Mogel
Multiplicity
Trevor Paglen
Raqs Media Collective
Ellen Rothenberg
Julia Meltzer and David Thorne
Spurse
Deborah Stratman
Daniel Tucker, Organizer, The We are Here Map Archive < --- Hi! Alex Villar
Yin Xiuzhen

Featured in Daniel Tucker’s We are Here Map Archive:

1. Bill Rankin “My cities” 1978-2004
2. Bill Rankin “The United States” 2003-2007
3. Counter Cartography Collective “Disorientation Guide” 2006
4. Nikolas R. Schiller “Pentagon Quilt #3” 2007
5. Ashley Hunt “Prison Map” 2003
6. Friends of William Blake “The People’s Guide to the RNC” 2004
7. Subrosa “Biopower Unlimited” 2002
8. Ecotrust Canada “Statement of Intent Boundaries” 2008
9. NYC Indypendent “Threat to Peace”
10. Repohistory “Circulation” 2000
11. Lize Mogel and Dario Azzellini “The Privatization of War: Colombia as Laboratory and Iraq as Large-Scale Application” 2007/2008
12. Beehive Design Collective “FTAA” 2003
13. Jeffrey Warren “Armsflow” 2006
14. Center for Urban Pedagogy “Cargo Chain” 2008
15. Temporary Travel Office “Contaminating the Preserve” 2008
16. Hackitectura (Pablo de Soto, Jose Perez de Lama osfa, Marta Paz sweena), Indymedia Estrecho and collaborators “Tactical Cartography of the Straits” 2004
17. Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri “Fear is Somehow Our For Whom? For What? and Proximity to Everything Far Away” 2006
18. The Los Angeles Urban Rangers “Malibu Public Beaches” 2007
19. The Los Angeles Urban Rangers “Los Angeles Urban Rangers Official Map and Guide” 2004
20. The Los Angeles Urban Rangers “LA County Fair” 2006
21. The Institute for Infinitely Small Things “City Formerly Known As Cambridge”
22. Amy Franceschini “Silicon Valley Superfund Sites” 2006
23. Amy Franceschini “Intentional Communities in Silicon Valley” 2008
24. Adriane Colburn “Whose On Top (race to the pole, part two)” 2008
25. Bureau d’études “World Government” 2005
26. Grupo de Arte Callejero “Aqui Viven Genocidas”

There will be a catalog for the exhibition that will be published by Melville House Books. I look forward to getting a copy when it comes out.

The tour starts next month and has dates that are still available. I would like for it to come to Washington, DC! :-)

Exhibition Itinerary

Richard E. Peeler Art Center , DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana
September 19 – December 2, 2008

Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota
February 7 – April 18, 2009

The Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
June 28 – September 20, 2009

AVAILABLE
October 2009 – January 2010

Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine
February 21 – May 30, 2010

AVAILABLE
June – August 2010

Click on the detail of Pentagon Quilt #3 below to view the rest of the map:

Related Virginia Entries:

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Animated Map Showing the History of New York City’s Subway System
|| 4/11/2008 || 7:12 pm || Comments Off on Animated Map Showing the History of New York City’s Subway System || ||

Pretty fun to watch. I’d like to make one of Washington, DC, but don’t have the data.

[via]

The closest I’ve made to this map would be the Google Maplet of the 1880 Street Railway Map of the City of Washington. Click here for more information about the system’s history.





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Nikolas Schiller is a second-class American citizen living in America's last colony, Washington, DC. This blog is my on-line repository of what I have created or found on-line since May of 2004. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

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  • thank you,
    come again!