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Cork Trees: Soft-Skinned Monarchs of the Mediterranean

Smithsonian Magazine

Cork oaks recently harvested of their bark are a common sight in the southern Iberian Peninsula. These middle-aged trees are growing in the Spanish province of Extremadura. Photo by Alastair Bland.

A person sees many countries on a European tour—and I don’t necessarily mean those divided by political boundaries and languages. I mean truffle country, sweet wine country, bear country, bike country, tax-free perfume country, cider country, salmon country and Basque country.

Further to the south, on the sweltering, blistering hot plains west and south of Madrid, the traveler finds the stately old monarchs of cork country. It’s not the grandest claim to fame for a landscape—its parched soils produce oak trees whose spongy bark will be cut up and plugged into wine bottles. But the corks of Spain and Portugal have played a key role in the making of wine for 200-plus years. The trees are beauties. They assume a huge girth over the centuries that they stand on these interior plains, and in a country where the summer sun all but sets the land on fire (I’m here now, and it’s 105 degrees in the sun, 80 in an air-conditioned hotel room), their shade is precious. Readers may know the story of Ferdinand, the great and gentle bull who lazed away the blazing Spanish days in the shade of his favorite cork tree.

The cork tree’s bark is a thick spongy hide that is stripped stripped away by workers using knives and axes once every nine years—the normal time it takes for the tree to recover. A number is often spray painted on the tree to indicate the year in which it was last harvested. The average specimen of Quercus suber produces about 100 pounds of cork in a stripping, while the very largest tree—named the Whistler Tree, 45 feet tall and a resident of Portugal’s Alentejo region—produced a ton of bark at its last harvest in 2009. It was enough for about 100,000 corks—enough to plug up the entire annual sweet wine production of Chateau d’Yquem.

A close-up view of the cork tree’s great gift—its spongy, pliable bark, freshly exposed by a cork harvester’s axe. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Marco di Pisa.

The Whistler Tree is the oldest known cork tree. It sprouted from its acorn 20 years before Lewis and Clark described the Rocky Mountains and produced its first cork crop in 1820. But even the youngest trees of cork-producing age (they aren’t harvested until they’re about 25 years old, and the first two harvests are often unsuitable for use as bottle stoppers) date back to the years before the advent of the screwcap—which puts a, um, twist into this story. For that little aluminum artifice of convenience for the wine drinker has become enemy number one of the cork industry, which employs tens of thousands of people full time or seasonally. And things look bleaker than even the desert plains of La Mancha for the Mediterranean’s five million acres of cork country. A report from World Wildlife Fund in 2006 predicted that by 2015—just three years away—95 percent of all wine bottles would be sealed with screwcaps, plugged with synthetic corks or packed as “bag-in-box” wines. That report remains the official prophecy of the future of corks.

This could mean the chainsaw for many of the trees, as their owners turn to more profitable uses of the land—and you can’t blame winemakers for seeking cork alternatives. Because cork taint, a condition that plagues even the greatest, most consistent wineries, makes as many as 15 bottles in 100 unpleasant, sometimes undrinkable. Cork taint is caused by “TCA” (or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole), a product of bacterial growth that occurs in the living bark of Quercus suber and which may be transferred to the wine if a cork is improperly sterilized. Screwcaps and other cork alternatives eliminate this risk. Many wine producers may never abandon the cork, which some say can positively affect the flavor of a wine and facilitate bottle maturation by allowing oxygen and other compounds to enter and exit through the porous cork. But some regional wine industries have have entirely shifted into the cork-free future. In New Zealand, when I visited the home of a friend in March, I picked up a bottle of a local Cabernet Sauvignon, harvested late in the Clinton era and plugged with a real cork. Today, virtually no wineries in New Zealand use corks, and when I showed my friend the bottle, she said, “But how are we going to open it?” Her household did not contain a corkscrew.

If the cork forests vanish, wildlife including lynx, red deer and pigs would lose their homes, and in Portugal alone more than 60,000 people might lose their jobs as the cork industry sink—like a rock. And instead of a sustainably harvested and biodegradable product, we would have synthetic replacements made of factory metal and plastic. Otherwise, most of us wouldn’t be affected, except that in fancy restaurants we wouldn’t get to feign scrutiny anymore when the waiter offers the wine cork to be smelled. And, of course, it would be a shame to lose the trees, whose shade in these parts, I assure you, is more precious than any wine.

Want to see a few cork trees and some real cork harvesting in action? In summertime, the highways through the Alentejo region of eastern Portugal and the bordering region of Extremadura in Spain are the places to be. Tourist services even offer guided bus trips deep into cork country, specifically to watch men and women stripping the trees, followed by a visit to a cork factory in Lisbon. Also to be expected are fine food and wine—probably not from screwcapped bottles, but watch closely. And a Portuguese cycle-touring company, Blue Coast Bikes, gears guests up for bike rides through the cork country, mostly to see castles and grapevines, but the cork trees are there, if for no purpose at all but to be enjoyed.

A harvester hauls away strips of bark from a Portuguese cork tree. The tree will stand for nine years before it is stripped again—if people are still harvesting cork by then. Photo by Sebastian Rich and World Wildlife Fund.

Back to Basics: Saving Water the Old-Fashioned Way

Smithsonian Magazine

The future of water security in Lima, Peru isn't happening in the city. It's happening 75 miles away and 12,000 feet up, in once-forgotten stone channels that pre-date the Incans.

The channels through the Humantanga district snake across steep slopes, collecting rainfall and water from highland streams during the rainy season, letting it seep into the mountain where it percolates naturally over months rather than running off through streams.

"When you see it, it's amazing and beautiful," says Leah Bremer, a researcher with The Natural Capital Project who spent years working with The Nature Conservancy and local organizations on a fund to improve water quantity and quality in the area. "Some are stone. Some are concrete. It's a combination of the natural and the more modern."

Called mamanteo—Spanish for suckling—the channels are an example of communities turning to the water wisdom of the ancients to solve shortages exacerbated by climate change. Historians believe the Wari culture built the channels as part of a complex water conservation system beginning about 1,500 years ago, centuries before the Incas. They fell into disrepair in recent centuries.

Peruvians are not the only people who have found that everything old is useful again; thousand-year-old water-saving techniques are being revived in communities in sub-Saharan Africa and India.

In Peru, the mamanteo have benefits both upstream and downstream. The people in Humantanga, a district whose name means "the place where falcons roost," have more water and better grazing for their livestock during the dry season. But it also has a profound effect downstream, increasing the quantity of water reaching Lima during the dry months of May through December.

That’s important because, despite building additional reservoirs and transporting waters through the Andes to the coast, Lima, the second largest desert city in the world, faces an annual water deficit.

Timm Kroeger, a Nature Conservancy economist who did a cost-benefit analysis, says the project would pay for itself. "It really is a no-brainer," he adds.

“Rehabilitation of ancient structures -- not the construction of new ones with the same technology -- is a very cost-effective measure,” adds Bert De Bièvre, a Lima-based researcher with the Consortium for the Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion (CONDESAN). He notes, however, the both green and grey construction will be necessary to deal with Lima’s water problems.

So far, at least ten mamanteos (sometimes also called amunas) have been restored. State and national funding will contribute $23 million to green solutions. They include restoring the mamanteo system, improving local irrigation, reducing overgrazing in the highlands, and transitioning to genetically superior cows that produce more milk. More milk per cow means fewer cows stressing the highlands.

A study by Forest Trends, a nonprofit that includes environmental and industry representatives, co-authored by De Bievre found that such green interventions could address nearly 90 percent of Lima’s water flow deficit during the dry season at costs lower than or competitive with modern gray infrastructure projects like pipelines or wastewater treatment plants.

"Ancient infiltration techniques were once used to increase water storage and slowly release flow that would re-surface in downslope springs after a time lag of several months can also be part of a landscape strategy," the study notes. "Implementing these types of green interventions can result in additional social, cultural, and environmental benefits, as upstream communities are engaged to support improved management of the region’s watersheds and water resources and as natural systems can also filter out water contaminants, stabilize soils, and provide habitat for biodiversity."

Bremer says locals originally were skeptical the old ways would work, but were convinced when the grasslands stayed green during the dry season. “I think it’s really cool that it comes from traditional knowledge,” she says. “It’s amazing the techniques they had.”

A restored mamanteo in Huamantanga, Peru. (Leah Bremer/The Natural Capital Project)

Peru is just one place where communities are turning to practical, cost-efficient water saving techniques thousands of years old.

In Kenya, sand dams, which date to the Romans, are improving water security in some of the harshest areas. In colonial Kenya, people used stones to form barricades to control soil erosion, according to Joe Kiolo, the communications manager for the African Sand Dam Foundation, and noticed the area would stay green long after the rainy season.

The technology is simple. Locals construct a concrete barrier across a seasonal river flowing over bedrock. As the river flows, sand in the water is deposited behind the wall, but only a small bit of the flow is held behind. Over time, layers of sand build up, creating a reservoir that stores the water after the river level drops. The sand prevents evaporation, key as climate change increases temperatures in the area increasing surface water evaporation, and acts as a filter, making the water safe for drinking.

The dams change life for communities. In Makueni County, southeast of Nairobi, for instance, Kiolo says during the dry season a woman may arise at 5:30 a.m. and walk two hours to the nearest river, fill her 20 liter jug and return. She rests briefly before taking her livestock for watering. Later that day, about 7 p.m., she gets in line at a river much closer. But the line is long and she may wait for two hours. Once her jug is full, she returns home for dinner, only to make one more trek during the night. The next day, she says, is spent sleeping to recover. In these villages, Kiolo says, children fetch water rather than attend school.

In one village, building a sand dam shortened the trek for water from nearly four miles to a little more than half a mile, saving time and improving sanitation and hygiene. The area near the dam also develops a micro-climate (like an oasis does), regenerating trees, shrubs and perennial herbs and encouraging family gardens.

The idea is spreading. The Sand Dam Foundation has partnered with other nonprofits to adopt the practice in Zimbabwe, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Chad, Mali, Swaziland, and Mozambique.

"It’s innovative yet is a simple, replicable technology that traps rainwater where it falls, making water available all year round," Kiolo says.

Rainwater harvesting in Rajasthan (Ann Marten, EcoTippingPoints</A>)

Perhaps the most widespread use of rain harvesting techniques is in India, where groundwater levels are dropping rapidly. In the past few years, the state of Rajasthan, India's driest area where temperatures can reach 120 degrees, has turned to several techniques. In one, the paar, rainwater is collected in a catchment and flows into sandy soil. To access the water, residents dig wells about 15 feet deep.

In Rajasthan’s Alwar district after wells dried up, locals turned to johads, earthen dams that capture rainwater and recharge groundwater. After building more than 3,000 johads, groundwater tables rose nearly 18 feet and adjacent forest coverage increased by a third, according to one report. Five rivers that went dry after the monsoon season now run all year long. How important are the old techniques? The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in a Vision 2022 document for Rajasthan lists water harvesting as a vital focus. And a government master plan to recharge groundwater lists johads, paars and other traditional structures.

One of the driving forces behind the work in Rajastan has been Jethu Singh Bhati, who has worked with the Thar Integrated Social Development Society on indigenous ways to preserve water since the mid-1990s.

"Governments pride themselves on expensive projects," he told a reporter last year. "But our work shows that systems intrinsically linked to the region’s hydrography, topography and economy are most effective."

How Human Noise Ruins Parks for Animals and People

Smithsonian Magazine

As transportation networks expand and urban areas grow, noise from sources such as vehicle engines is spreading into remote places. Human-caused noise has consequences for wildlife, entire ecosystems and people. It reduces the ability to hear natural sounds, which can mean the difference between life and death for many animals, and degrade the calming effect that we feel when we spend time in wild places.

Protected areas in the United States, such as national parks and wildlife refuges, provide places for respite and recreation, and are essential for natural resource conservation. To understand how noise may be affecting these places, we need to measure all sounds and determine what fraction come from human activities.

In a recent study, our team used millions of hours of acoustic recordings and sophisticated models to measure human-caused noise in protected areas. We found that noise pollution doubled sound energy in many U.S. protected areas, and that noise was encroaching into the furthest reaches of remote areas.

Our approach can help protected area managers enhance recreation opportunities for visitors to enjoy natural sounds and protect sensitive species. These acoustic resources are important for our physical and emotional well-being, and are beautiful. Like outstanding scenery, pristine soundscapes where people can escape the clamor of everyday life deserve protection.


“Noise” is an unwanted or inappropriate sound. We focused on human sources of noise in natural environments, such as sounds from aircraft, highways or industrial sources. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, noise pollution is noise that interferes with normal activities, such as sleeping and conversation, and disrupts or diminishes our quality of life.

Human-caused noise in protected areas interferes with visitors’ experience and alters ecological communities. For example, noise may scare away carnivores, resulting in inflated numbers of prey species such as deer. To understand noise sources in parks and inform management, the National Park Service has been monitoring sounds at hundreds of sites for the past two decades.


Noise is hard to quantify at large-landscape scales because it can’t be measured by satellite or other visual observations. Instead researchers have to collect acoustic recordings over a wide area. NPS scientists on our team used acoustic measurements taken from 492 sites around the continental United States to build a sound model that quantified the acoustic environment.

National Park Service staff set up an acoustic recording station as a car passes on Going-to- the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana. (National Park Service)

They used algorithms to determine the relationship between sound measurements and dozens of geospatial features that can affect measured average sound levels. Examples include climate data, such as precipitation and wind speed; natural features, such as topography and vegetation cover; and human features, such as air traffic and proximity to roads.

Using these relationships, we predicted how much human-caused noise is added to natural sound levels across the continental United States.

To get an idea of the potential spatial extent of noise pollution effects, we summarized the amount of protected land experiencing human-produced noise three or 10 decibels above natural. These increments represent a doubling and a 10-fold increase, respectively, in sound energy, and a 50 to 90 percent reduction in the distance at which natural sounds can be heard. Based on a literature review, we found that these thresholds are known to impact human experience in parks and have a range of repercussions for wildlife.


The good news is that in many cases, protected areas are quieter than surrounding lands. However, we found that human-caused noise doubled environmental sound in 63 percent of U.S. protected areas, and produced a tenfold or greater increase in 21 percent of protected areas.

Map of projected ambient sound levels for a typical summer day across the contiguous United States, where lighter yellow indicates louder conditions and darker blue indicates quieter conditions. (Rachel Buxton, Author provided)

Noise depends on how a protected area is managed, where a site is located and what kinds of activities take place nearby. For example, we found that protected areas managed by local government had the most noise pollution, mainly because they were in or near large urban centers. The main noise sources were roads, aircraft, land-use conversion and resource extraction activities such as oil and gas production, mining and logging.

We were encouraged to find that wilderness areas – places that are preserved in their natural state, without roads or other development – were the quietest protected areas, with near-natural sound levels. However, we also found that 12 percent of wilderness areas experienced noise that doubled sound energy. Wilderness areas are managed to minimize human influence, so most noise sources come from outside their borders.

Finally, we found that many endangered species, particularly plants and invertebrates, experience high levels of noise pollution in their critical habitat – geographic areas that are essential for their survival. Examples include the Palos Verdes Blue butterfly, which is found only in Los Angeles County, California, and the Franciscan manzanita, a shrub that once was thought extinct, and is found only in the San Francisco Bay area.

Of course plants can’t hear, but many species with which they interact are affected by noise. For example, noise changes the distribution of birds, which are important pollinators and seed dispersers. This means that noise can reduce the recruitment of seedlings.


Noise pollution is pervasive in many protected areas, but there are ways to reduce it. We have identified noisy areas that will quickly benefit from noise mitigation efforts, especially in habitats that support endangered species.

Strategies to reduce noise include establishing quiet zones where visitors are encouraged to quietly enjoy protected area surroundings, and confining noise corridors by aligning airplane flight patterns over roads. Our work provides insights for restoring natural acoustic environments, so that visitors can still enjoy the sounds of birdsong and wind through the trees.

Catch and Release: A Wicked Game?

Smithsonian Magazine

Andrew, bundled against the blazing sun, releases a big brown trout. Photo by Alastair Bland.

We stomped through a boggy marsh on the shores of a small pond near Greymouth, in New Zealand’s West Coast region. This flat plain resembled a patchy blend of tundra, taiga and tropical savannah, backdropped by huge mountain slopes of steaming jungles and glaciers. I was barefooted, plunging through the mud puddles and manure, and Andrew stepped first over a rope fence strung across the road between two posts. I followed, and zzuuhhh-WHUMP! A severe jolt blasted through my body. I froze, felt myself lift in slow motion as the world around me went silent. The gray-green landscape turned an alien orange in a seemingly psychedelic out-of-body experience. Then I screamed and cartwheeled onto my back, landing in a mud puddle. Andrew rushed over as we both realized what had happened. I had learned the lesson that every sheep, cow and goat here learns young: Electric fences hurt. Almost incredibly, these live-wire barriers—which crisscross New Zealand—are almost never marked, and, like any good sheep here, I jump back now at the sight of any wire fence.

Meanwhile, we have finally had some consistent luck with the big brown trout. From the mud banks of the winding streams we can see them hunkering on the bottom, and so long as we keep our shadows onshore, they aren’t shy about dashing to the surface and attacking flies dropped upon them. Andrew and I spent an hour the other day with our poles doubled over, fish after fish sprinting upstream and down, thrashing at the surface and finally rolling over.

We are torn between keeping some to eat and letting them go. Catching and releasing is an honored way of life for many trout fishermen, who revere their favorite fish as something sacred. Without doubt, fishing is an effective means of bringing people to the water’s edge, their eyes open and hearts thumping, to admire the ecosystem and consider the value in preserving it. But at its worst, catch-and-release fly fishing becomes a wicked game of torment. The angler calls it a “sport” to fool a fish into inhaling a sinister steel hook. He or she whoops and hollers as the frightened fish panics, and, after a fight, lands it on the bank, takes measurements for bragging purposes, imagines there is negligible risk that the fish will die of injuries, lets it go and comes back as soon as possible to do it again. I have known noble old fishermen who smoke tobacco pipes while casting, and I would be surprised if there weren’t others who read lines from Walden on the bank between trout. I love fish, fishing and fishermen—often the most active of conservationists—but our hobby often smells of rank and prestige.

The antithesis to all this may be to visit the water, pull out a fish and go home for dinner. In other words, keeping it real. I often prefer that route—and we’ve found that brown trout fillets simmered in olive oil, or whole rainbows broiled in the oven, do just dandy with a New Zealand Pinot Noir carefully chosen from the bottom shelf at the supermarket.

A reward of trout fishing: seasoned fillets simmering in olive oil. Photo by Alastair Bland.

Our latest day of fishing was the grandest; in a series of shallow ponds miles from the highway, we saw absurdly big trout cruising the shores, and a dry fly set quietly upon their noses seemed just the item they were hungry for. We met just one other fisherman on the bank.

“In California, we’ve grown up catching 10-inch fish,” I said to the man. “Where are the little trout here?”

“These are the little ones,” he answered with a slanted smile.

We’ve come over Arthur’s Pass. The rest of the party drove while I rode my bicycle to keep my legs in working order. We’d eaten trout and quinoa for breakfast, but I was running on empty after 30 miles. I stopped at Jackson’s Tavern, locally know for its game pies, to inquire about buying fruit. “I only have two dollars,” I said sheepishly. The lady of the place slugged me lightly in the shoulder for offering money and pushed four oranges at me.

I pulled myself up the 18-percent grades near the top—and here, at 3,025 feet (don’t smirk; that’s about the highest pass they’ve got here) I encountered one of the nation’s most celebrated wild creatures: the kea. This endangered parrot is so clever and mischievous that locals can’t decide whether to love the birds or hate them. Keas will tear windshield wipers from cars, shred unguarded clothing and backpacks and raid cabins. I have also heard reports that keas will lock or unlock doors, depending on which action most inconveniences the nearest person. I even heard tell of a woman who got locked from the outside into an outhouse by the parrots. The birds are even said to be deft at unscrewing bolts, and I’m sure they have no trouble with Allen heads.

A kea at Arthur's Pass stalks a Dutch tourist. Photo by Alastair Bland.

We’re going trout fishing for perhaps the last time today, as we’re headed this afternoon for the East Coast—and we’re taking our credit cards and passports with us, in case some team of keas should break into our room with plans to make off with our identities.

Correspondence, Abbott H. Thayer to the Beaches, Dewing, Endicott, the Kings 1891-1915

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Thomas B. Brumbaugh research material on Abbott Handerson Thayer and other artists, 1876-1994 (bulk 1960s-1994); e Also located at; a Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Abbott Handerson Thayer was born in Boston, Massachusetts on August 12, 1849 to a distinguished family. He moved from Boston to Brooklyn during his childhood, where he attended the National Academy of Design. Thayer often used his wife, Kate Bloede Thayer, her sister Gertrude, and his three children Mary, Gerald and Gladys as models. He also used Clara A. May as a model. His subjects included ethereal angels, landscapes, women, children, and flowers. When Kate died, Thayer's entire outlook on art and life changed. It had been Kate's family that introduced Thayer to the sense of idealism that comes from a German family who had immigrated to the United States. He had learned about the romanticism surrounding art and literature from the Bloedes, all of which encouraged the artist to paint perfectly beautiful figures. Later in life, Thayer established a permanent household in Dublin, New Hampshire, with his new wife, Emma Beach. He loved to paint the surrounding mountains and birds. Interestingly, Charles Lang Freer was one of Thayer's patrons.

Kate Bloede (1846-1890) was Abbott Thayer's first wife, who tragically died following a long battle with depression. Abbott used Kate as a model during his painting career. The couple lived in Paris, where their first two children were born. Upon their return to New York, the Thayers had three more children. In May 1888, Kate developed "melancholia," or depression, following the death of her father, Gustav Bloede. She was admitted to Bloomingdale Hospital, where she was treated for six months. Although her family visited her often, she did not respond well. Abbott transferred Kate to McLean Asylum in the winter of 1888, and then to a sanitorium in 1890. Pulmonary complications developed and Kate died on May 3, 1891. Animosities between Abbott and the Bloede family developed soon after Kate's death.

Emma Beach was Abbott Thayer's second wife, whom he married four months to the day after Kate Bloede's death. She met the couple during the summer of 1881, when they were vacationing in Nantucket. Beach was the daughter of Moses Beach, the former owner of the New York Sun. She was an art student, and over the next few years she visited the Thayers often, developing a close relationship with the children. Emma actually helped Thayer transfer Kate to the McLean Asylum. On July 27, 1891, Abbott wrote to Emma, imploring her to move in permanently with the family for the sake of the children. Her family was quite against this proposal, but the two were married in Nantucket on September 3, 1891. This caused problems between Abbott and the Bloedes, particularly offending Gertrude Bloede and Indie Bloede King, Kate's sisters.

Violet and Ella Beach were Emma Beach's sisters.

Dr. Samuel T. King was Abbott's brother-in-law, the husband of Indie Bloede. Thayer was quite close with King, and therefore it was King to whom he wrote in an attempt to patch things over with the Bloede family, especially Gertrude Bloede. This relationship later deteriorated, with King supporting his wife as opposed to Thayer.

Gertrude Bloede was Kate's sister and was married to Dr. King. It was Gertrude who was most offended when Thayer quickly remarried after Kate's death, and it was Gertrude whom Abbott attempted to reach out to after she refused to speak to him. Gertrude lived a double life as a poet. She published several pieces under the name "Stuart Sterne" in the 19th century.

William Endicott was an American politician from Massachusetts who served as Secretary of War and was influential on the Board on Fortification. Following his retirement, he returned to Boston, was overseer of Harvard College (his Alma mater) and president of the Peabody Academy of Science and Peabody Education Fund. It appears that Thayer's letter responds to a request from Endicott that Abbott participate in a mural in Massachusetts.

Maria Oakey Dewing was the wife of Thomas Wilmer Dewing, an American painter at the turn of the century. Maria herself was an artist who painted mostly flowers, although she began by painting figures. She studied art at the Cooper Union in New York City.

Gift of Susan A. Hobbs.

This folder is an amalgamation of letters written by Abbott H. Thayer to various people, mostly relatives. The recipients include Moses Beach, Ella Beach, Violet Beach, Maria Oakey Dewing, Gertrude Bloede, and Dr. Samuel T. King.

What Makes Tucson Deserving of the Title of the United States' First Capital of Gastronomy

Smithsonian Magazine

Every day, tens of thousands of cars barrel down Interstate 10, a highway that hugs the western edge of Tucson, Arizona. Many of these drivers may not realize that they are driving past a region with one of the longest food heritages on the continent. Often considered the birthplace of Tucson itself, this swath of Sonoran Desert  nestled at the base of the Tucson Mountains is where the O'odham people settled, planting crops of maize, tepary beans and other produce amid a landscape punctuated by prickly pear cacti and sagebrush.

This vast agricultural past, along with a thriving culinary scene that rivals those found in much larger urban areas, is what helped this city of more than half a million people earn the coveted title of Unesco Capital of Gastronomy.

Over the holidays, Unesco added 47 cities in 33 countries, including Tucson, to its growing Creative Cities Network. Tucson is the first place in the United States to be honored with the Capital of Gastronomy designation. (Other cities that earned the title for 2015 include Belém, Brazil; Bergen, Norway; Phuket, Thailand; and Tucson’s sister city, Ensenada, Mexico.) Launched in 2004, the network consists of 116 cities in the creative fields of crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts and music. The purpose of this international network is to strengthen creative partnerships between different cities and encourage sustainable urban development worldwide.

Why Tucson? Though Unesco didn’t formally explain its reasons for including the city in its network, Jonathan Mabry, historic preservation officer for the City of Tucson, thinks he may have the answer.

“It all starts with our deep and multicultural food history,” he tells “There’s so much innovation in all parts of our food system, including sustainable agriculture and ranching, plus the development of an innovative urban agriculture scene. For example, Tucson recently amended our land use code to make it easier to do agriculture within city limits and to sell those products.”

Mabry was responsible for writing the application that helped Tucson snag the Unesco designation (his completed application is available here). Even he was surprised at the wealth of food-related accomplishments the city has achieved over the years, from the ancient O’odham mountainside settlement to the many local organizations striving to help battle hunger, like the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and Iskashitaa Refugee Network. And then there’s the food itself: The city is packed with restaurateurs, chefs, farmers and ranchers who nurture a vibrant food scene.

One of those local food boosters is Janos Wilder, a James Beard Award winner and chef/owner of Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails. His bar and restaurant incorporates local ingredients like tepary beans, a drought-resistant legume native to the American Southwest, into dishes like a Cholla bud escabeche served alongside a green bean and tepary bean salad and drizzled with a jalapeño-orange vinaigrette. When talked to Wilder, he was in the early stages of writing out a quintessentially local menu for a conference he’ll attend this spring as the city’s representative.

“I’m thinking that I might pickle some Cholla buds or add some purslane into a dish, since it grows wild in Tucson’s dry riverbeds,” Wilder says. “I’ll probably make a syrup out of some Saguaro cactus blossoms.”

Wilder is preparing another venture: the Carriage House, a downtown events space that will open later this month and feature cooking classes. Fittingly, his first class will focus on cooking with local ingredients.   

“Using ingredients from the desert has always been important to me,” he says. “Even when I opened my first restaurant here in 1983, I ran an ad looking for local gardeners before I ran one to hire staff.”

Residents citywide heard his call. They arrived soon thereafter with armloads of squashes, chilies, herbs and other edibles they had grown in their own backyards. Even today, Wilder has a working relationship with many area farmers and gardeners. He also taps into his own thriving garden adjacent to his restaurant and the one he nurtures at the Children’s Museum Tucson a block away.

But the city’s burgeoning food scene of restaurants, food festivals and farmers’ markets isn’t the only thing that makes it a gastronomy capital. At a more organic level are organizations like Native Seeds/SEARCH, a nonprofit seed bank that conserves and distributes heirloom seeds found across the Southwest. Many of the crops that Wilder and other chefs cook with evolved from the very seeds provided by Native Seeds/SEARCH, bringing Tucson’s agricultural history full circle.

“There’s such an unexpected biodiversity in the city’s desert borderlands,” Mabry says. “There are more heritage foods grown within 100 miles of Tucson than any other city in North America.”

Another organization, Mission Garden Project, seeks to bring focus back to the city’s extensive agrarian lineage. The project is the brainchild of the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace, a non-profit organization that re-created the original walled gardens built by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit missionary from Europe who settled in the area in the 17th century. The site is located on the same fertile ground where the O’odham people grew their crops more than 4,000 years ago. They named it Cuk Şon or “black base.” Mission Garden Project interprets different distinctive periods of Tucson’s agricultural history, from the O’odham through the Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and Territorial Anglo-American periods, re-creating them in the form of public gardens, vineyards, and orchards.

Gary Nabhan, Ph.D., director of the Center for Regional Food Studies at the University of Arizona and founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH, has been a key partner to the organization. He helped plant the seed, so to speak, that got Tucson considered for the Unesco designation.

“There's a real pride here in Tucson,” he tells,  “not only of the city’s rich agricultural heritage, but of the many recipes linked to it. It’s that intangible cultural heritage that ties Tucson’s present food scene to its past.” With the help of Unesco and the city’s ongoing appetite for celebrating its culinary roots, the future is bound to be just as delicious.

Ernst Herzfeld Papers, Series 2: Sketchbooks; Subseries 2.07: Persepolis: Sketchbook 19

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
- Title is provided by Xavier Courouble, FSg Archives cataloger, based on Herzfeld's original sketchbook title and Joseph Upton's Catalogue of the Herzfeld Archive.

"The field activities of the Persepolis Expedition were initiated by Professor Ernst Herzfeld in Spring 1931, after the French archaeological monopoly had been replaced by the new Antiquity Law, which opened Iran to archaeological field work by other nations. The expedition ended in fall 1939, after the outbreak of World War II. [...] At the end of 1934, Herzfeld was removed from his position as expedition director. He left Persepolis for the last time toward the end of November 1934 and went to London." [Elspeth R. M. Dusinberre, "Herzfeld in Persepolis", Ernst Herzfeld and the Development of Near Eastern Studies, 1900-1950. Edited by Ann Gunter and Stefan R. Hauser. Leiden: Brill, 2005. P.137 and P.161]

"Herzfeld returned to Persepolis in 1931 as field director. The project was conducted under the auspices of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, with additional financial assistance from other American individuals and institutions." [Elspeth R. M. Dusinberre, "Herzfeld in Persepolis", Ernst Herzfeld and the Development of Near Eastern Studies, 1900-1950. Edited by Ann Gunter and Stefan R. Hauser. Leiden: Brill, 2005. P.146]

Finding aid, based on Joseph M. Upton's Catalogue of the Herzfeld Archive, 1974, is available in the Archives Department and on Internet

- SK-19 is the nineteenth of a series of thirty-five sketchbooks (Skizzenbücher), in which Ernst Herzfeld recorded his observations on topography, landscape, inscriptions and reliefs, archaeological remains, architecture, artifacts and decorative motifs related to Istakhr (Iran), and Persepolis (Iran).

- Original handwritten title on cover reads: "Ernst Herzfeld; Skizzenbuch XIX: Persepolis."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 1 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [topographical] measurements for mountains on edge of plain: Kūh-i Nasare-Khanä, Kūh-i Sachl, Kūh-i Gerd."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 2 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], plan of summit of Kūh-I Sachl and of cistern."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 3 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], sketch elevations of Kūh-i Sachl and Kūh-i Nasare-Khanä; measurements for map of plain; [funerary inscriptions associated with] astodans (astudans) on Kūh-i Sachl."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 4 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], measurements for map of plain."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 5 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], course of Polvar [(Pulvar)] River across plain."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 6 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [perspective drawing of unidentified graves]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 7 reads, "between Naqsh-i Rajab [(Iran)] and Naqsh-i Rustam [(Iran)], [unidentified graves]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 8 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Fratadara Temple]: plan of building [north-west corner with basis for a fire altar], [see FSA A.6 05.0873]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 9 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Fratadara Temple]: [plan of building northern half], [see FSA A.6 05.0873]; remains of Greek [votive] inscription."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 10 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Fratadara Temple]: alabastron, bronze ring [with animal design], altar and column base."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 11 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Harem [of Xerxes]: [partial plan of west wing], [see FSA A.6 05.0866]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 12 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Harem [of Xerxes]: [partial plan on west side of main wing], [see FSA A.6 05.0865; FSA A.6 05.0866; FSA A.6 05.1238]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 13 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Harem [of Xerxes]: [partial plan of west wing] (continued), [see FSA A.6 05.0866]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 14 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [floor pavement] over graves (related to p.7)."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 15 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Fratadara Temple]: plan of building [south-east corner], [see FSA A.6 05.0874] with location and drawing of finds."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 16 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Tripylon [Council Hall]: plan of [southern portico] and small staircase, [see FSA A.6 05.0842]; [see FSA A.6 04.GN.2347]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 17 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], plan of building north of Tripylon [Council Hall], [see FSA A.6 05.0842]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 18 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Fratadara Temple]: stone plaque with lion and affronted sphinxes (location on p.15); east of TaĊara [Tachara (Palace of Darius)]: remains of jar."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 19 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Tripylon (Council Hall)]: plan, [see FSA A.6 05.0889]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 20 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Fratadara Temple]: [plan of building southern half], [see FSA A.6 05.0874] with measurements."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 21 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Fratadara Temple]: [plan of building southern half], [see FSA A.6 05.0874] with measurements."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 22 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Unfinished Gate: plan, [see FSA A.6 04.GN.2295; FSA A.6 04.GN.2296]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 23 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Fratadara Temple]: measurements."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 24 reads, "Istakhr [(Iran)], four stone fragments."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 25 reads, "Istakhr [(Iran)], excavation sounding No. 2 [(probably excavation sounding No. 3 according to FSA A.6 05.0833)]: measured plan with location of stone fragments, [see FSA A.6 05.0833]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 26 reads, "Istakhr [(Iran)], excavation sounding No. 5: plan and elevation."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 27 reads, "Istakhr [(Iran)], excavation sounding No. 2 [(probably excavation sounding No. 3 according to FSA A.6 05.0833)]: measured plan, [see FSA A.6 05.0833]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 28 reads, "Istakhr [(Iran)]: left) excavation sounding No. 2 [(probably excavation sounding No. 3 according to FSA A.6 05.0833)]: plan and elevation, [see FSA A.6 05.0833]; right) excavation sounding No. 1: plan, [see FSA A.6 05.0834]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 29 reads, "Istakhr [(Iran)]: left) excavation sounding No. 3: city wall, [see FSA A.6 05.0835]; right) excavation sounding No. 2 [(probably excavation sounding No. 3 according to FSA A.6 05.0833)]: plan."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 30 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Harem [of Xerxes], [main wing]: plan of [principal courtyard and northern portico], [see FSA A.6 05.0865; FSA A.6 05.0866; FSA A.6 05.0868; FSA A.6 05.1238]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 31 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Tripylon (Council Hall)]: plan of northern stairway, [see FSA A.6 05.0842]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 35 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Tachara Palace (Palace of Darius)]: plan of small stairway, west of the main building], [see FSA A.6 05.0846]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 44 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], location of "goldnes Schmuckstab"."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 45 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], prehistoric village, kiln."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 46 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], prehistoric village, kiln."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 47 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], location of "Bronzebeschlag"."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 48 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], measurements for map of Hajji Nasrullah water channel (qanāt) from Istakhr."

Fear of Humans Is Forcing Daytime Animals Into Night Mode

Smithsonian Magazine

Thanks to human activity, some daytime animals are switching over to the night shift.

Justin Brashares noticed it first in 2013, when he was studying olive baboons in Ghana: during times that humans were around, the primates stayed up long past their normal bedtimes. It seemed the creatures had learned that by staying up late, they could avoid being chased down, harassed or even killed. Not only that, but they could get revenge by orchestrating heists on their day-walking evolutionary cousins.

“They become nocturnal not just to avoid people, but to raid crops and prey on livestock,” says Brashares, a professor of ecology and conservation at the University of California at Berkeley.

Brashares studies the wide-ranging impacts humans have on wildlife and ecosystems. Some of his colleagues had noticed similar patterns: grizzly bears in Canada were becoming more active at night in response to hikers, while leopards and tigers in Nepal were doing the same in response to increased human foraging and firewood collection in their habitat during the day. Recently, camera traps in Africa have also revealed antelopes appearing more often at night near human settlements and hunters, he says.

To get a fuller picture of the ways humans changed the habits of nearby wildlife, he decided to conduct a larger review of the effects of human disturbance on the sleeping and activity patterns of animals.

In a recent study published in the journal Science, Brashares and his coauthors reviewed 76 studies covering 62 different mammal species. Kaitlyn Gaynor, a PhD student at Berkeley and the lead author of the research, says that the researchers rounded up data from published tables and charts recording animal activity for full 24-hour periods using methods like camera traps, live monitoring or radio collars, both in areas of high and low human disturbance.

They found that, on average, the species analyzed had been slowly switching over to a more nocturnal schedule in response to human disturbance. Specifically, they were 1.36 times more active during the night, compared to their counterparts who lived in areas with low to no human disturbance.

Image by Laurent Geslin. Wild boars looking for food near the trash in Barcelona, Spain. (original image)

Image by Laurent Geslin. European beaver in the French city Orléans at night. (original image)

Image by Laurent Geslin. A badger in a cemetery in South London, UK. (original image)

Some of the starkest contrasts included sun bears in the Sumatran jungle in Indonesia, which went from being 19 percent active during the night in areas with few signs of humans to 90 percent in high disturbance areas (perhaps we should now call them moon bears). There were leopards in Gabon, which went from 43 percent nocturnality without bushmeat hunting to 93 percent when it was prevalent. And then there were wild boars in Poland, which went from 48 percent nocturnality in natural forests to 90 percent in metropolitan areas.

“We found a strong response by all species," Gaynor says. "Even apex predators that typically don’t have to fear anything were showing a strong avoidance of people."

These changes can cascade through an ecosystem. Since animals which have evolved to hunt in the daytime may see diminishing returns when the lights are out, shifting their schedules can result in reduced fitness, reproduction levels and even survival rates. What that showed researchers was that “our presence can have an effect on wildlife—even if it is not immediately quantifiable,” says Gaynor.

Ana Benítez-López, a post-doctoral researcher at Radboud University in the Netherlands who published commentary on the recent study in the same issue of Science, says that the research adds what we knew about animals avoiding human disturbance completely.

Her own research has found that, on weekends in Spain, birds like little bustards and pin-tailed sandgrouse change their behavior in response to more people flocking to the countryside. While humans are hiking, hunting, mushroom-picking or dirt-biking, the birds get busier, forming larger, more defensive flocks and spending being vigilant. For the birds, this means less time on mating displays, building nests, feeding chicks or foraging for food.

“That, in the end, has consequences for survival or for reproduction rates,” Benítez-López says.

Gaynor’s study helps fill in another part of the picture of how humans disturb wildlife and ecosystems. The researchers only studied medium- and large-sized mammals, but she says she wouldn’t be surprised if the smaller prey species might see human disturbance as a safe haven since it keeps other predators away. “We call this a ‘human shield,’” she says.

Gaynor and her coauthors were surprised how commonly mammals switched over to nocturnal lifestyles, regardless of habitat type or intensity of human disturbance. According to their findings, there was almost no variation in intensity between the nocturnality effect caused by things like hunting, agriculture, intense urban development or hiking in the forest.

Justin Suraci, an ecologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz, has studied the effects of fear of humans on cougars and wasn’t involved in the latest research. He says this study reveals that there is a mismatch between what humans perceive to be a risk to wildlife, and what animals themselves perceive to be a risk. “We often consider recreation and especially non-motorized recreation like hunting and mountain biking as totally benign activities, but this shows that is not the case,” he says.

The finding has huge implications for conservation practices, says Suraci. He agrees with the authors of the paper when they say that we should be thinking not only of where humans are allowed access to protected wildlife areas—but also when. For example, if an endangered species tends to forage in a national park in the early morning hours and the evening—a common time for creatures like bears or deer—it might help to open the park only during midday.

On the plus side, Gaynor says the study does suggest that many animals are finding ways to adapt to human presence and ultimately, coexist. “You may also see natural selection happening, where animals are developing traits that allow them to be more successful around people,” she says.

But not all species are capable of switching their habits so easily, stress both Gaynor and Benítez-López. Reptiles, for instance, are particularly dependent on sunlight for energy. And a number of other species may not be able to cope with a night owl’s lifestyle. “We will probably have a few winners and lots of losers,” Benitez says. What's clear is that, as humans continue to expand their impact, we are bound to reshape ecosystems in unexpected ways.

A World of Vanishing Lakes

Smithsonian Magazine

A large body of water like a lake would seem to be a permanent fixture of the landscape, but that’s not always the case.

Some lakes naturally come and go from year to year, as the flow of water into and out of them changes throughout the months. For others, though, once they are gone, they are gone forever. Climate change is a worry for some places, such as subarctic lakes that are dependent on snowmelt.

The reasons behind lake disappearances are varied. Here are nine lakes that no longer exist or are in danger of disappearing:

Lake Urmia, Iran

This saltwater lake, located in the northwest corner of Iran, was once that nation's largest, but it has quickly retreated from its shores. Climate change, wasteful irrigation practices (freshwater is diverted before it reaches the lake) and groundwater depletion account for a large portion of the water loss.

In addition, dams have cut off much of the supply of new water to the lake. “There are just too many people nowadays, and everybody needs to use the water and the electricity the dams generate,” one official, Hamid Ranaghadr, told the New York Times last week.

Only about five percent of the water in the lake remains compared to its volume about 20 years ago, according to figures from local environmental officials.

Lake Waiau, Hawaii

Lake Waiau was never a very big lake. Hawaii’s only alpine lake measured just 6,900 square meters at its maximum and 3 meters in depth. But it was considered sacred to native Hawaiians. According to myth, the lake was bottomless and a portal to the spirit world.

But in early 2010, the lake started to shrink, and by September 2013, the lake was little more than a pond, covering a mere 115 square meters and reaching a depth of less than 30 centimeters. Such a decline is “unprecedented in modern times,” the U.S. Geological Survey reported last year. The cause of the lake’s decline is currently unknown, but drought is among the suspects.

Dead Sea; Israel, the West Bank and Jordan

The Dead Sea is really a lake fed by the Jordan River. There’s no outlet to the ocean, though, so the lake is salty10 times saltier than the north Atlantic and inhospitable to most life other than microbes and human bathers.

The Dead Sea has persisted for thousands of years because the amount of water going into the lake has been more or less equal to the amount that evaporates from it. But as the region’s population has grown, that equation has come unbalanced. Water that once would have flown into the Dead Sea has instead been diverted to supply people’s homes and water-intensive businesses, such as chemical and potash companies. With less than a tenth of the water entering the lake now compared with several decades ago, the Dead Sea’s water level is dropping by about a meter a year.

Scott Lake, Florida

This central Florida lake drained away in just two weeks in June 2006 when a sinkhole opened up. Scientists estimate that 32 tons of wildlife were sucked into the Earth; some fish were left behind to rot on the exposed lake bottom.

Nearby residents considered efforts to plug the hole, but time took care of the problem for them. With the sinkhole now naturally plugged back up with clay and silt, it's starting to fill with water and gradually the lake is returning. But Florida’s geology makes the state prone to sinkholes, so the lake’s permanence is not guaranteed.

(original image)

Aral Sea, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

The Aral Sea was the world’s fourth largest salt lake until it began shrinking in the last quarter of the 20th century. Since that time, ninety percent of the river flow from the Tian Shan Mountains into the lake has been diverted to irrigate rice and cotton fields planted in desert lands. As a result, the lake’s water level quickly began to drop. Fishing in the lake has ceased, and shipping has declined. And the exposed lake bottom has become a source of salt that is carried by winds across a radius of 300 kilometers and pollutes agricultural lands.

Lake Peigneur, Louisiana

Disaster struck this lake on November 20, 1980, when a Texaco oil rig accidentally punctured the roof of a salt mine. The lake—along with the drilling platform, 11 barges and many trees—were quickly sucked below through what was described as a giant whirlpool. “It was like watching a science fiction movie,” Virlie Langlinais told Mother Jones last year. Surprisingly, no one was injured or killed in the incident. Drained of its freshwater, the lake was refilled with salt water from nearby Vermilion Bay, temporarily creating the state’s largest waterfall.

Lake Cachet 2, Chile

This lake, high in the Andes, disappeared overnight on March 31, 2012. But that wasn’t all that unusual for the lake, at least not lately—it’s disappeared and refilled multiple times since 2008. The lake is a glacial lake, dammed in by the Colonia glacier. Climate change has been thinning the glacier, which has allowed a tunnel eight kilometers beneath to repeatedly open and close, draining the lake and letting it refill many times over. Prior to 2008, the lake was relatively stable.

Cachuma Lake, California

This southern California lake, located near Santa Barbara, is a popular recreation spot and a critical source of drinking water for 200,000 people. But the lake is now at just 39.7 percent of capacity. California is in the midst of a devastating drought that’s not expected to end anytime soon, and Cachuma Lake’s future remains in question.

Lake Chad; Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria

Once the world’s sixth largest lake, Lake Chad has lost 90 percent of its area since it began shrinking in the 1960s. Persistent drought, water withdrawals for irrigation and other human uses, and climate variability have worked in concert to drain the lake. "The changes in the lake have contributed to local lack of water, crop failures, livestock deaths, collapsed fisheries, soil salinity, and increasing poverty throughout the region," according to a 2008 report from the United Nations Environment Programme.

As Mongolia Melts, Looters Close In On Priceless Artifacts

Smithsonian Magazine

The history and archaeology of Mongolia, most famously the sites associated with the largest land empire in the history of the world under Ghengis Khan, are of global importance. But they’re facing unprecedented threats as climate change and looting impact ancient sites and collections.

Climate change and looting may seem to be unrelated issues. But deteriorating climate and environmental conditions result in decreased grazing potential and loss of profits for the region’s many nomadic herders. Paired with a general economic decline, herders and other Mongolians are having to supplement their incomes, turning to alternative ways of making money. For some, it’s searching for ancient treasures to sell on the illegal antiquities market.

The vast Mongolian landscape, whether it be plains, deserts or mountains, is dotted with man-made stone mounds marking the burials of ancient peoples. The practice started sometime in the neolithic period (roughly 6,000-8,000 years ago) with simple stone mounds the size of a kitchen table. These usually contain a human body and a few animal bones.

Over time, the burials became larger (some over 1300 feet long) and more complex, incorporating thousands of horse sacrifices, tools, chariots, tapestries, family complexes, and eventually treasure (such as gold, jewelry and gems).

For Mongolians, these remains are the lasting reminders of their ancient past and a physical tie to their priceless cultural heritage.

Mongolia has reasonably good laws regarding the protection of cultural heritage. But poor understanding of the laws, and the nearly impossible task of enforcing them in such a large space with relatively few people and meager budgets keep those laws from being effective. And laws can’t protect Mongolia’s cultural heritage from climate change.

Looting losses

The looting of archaeological sites in Mongolia has been happening for a very long time. Regional archaeologists have shared anecdotes of finding skeletons with break-in tools made from deer antlers in shafts of 2,000 year old royal tombs in central Mongolia. These unlucky would-be thieves risked the unstable sands collapsing in the shafts above them for a chance at riches, not long after the royal leaders had been buried there.

But many recent pits dug directly into burial sites around Mongolia, some that are more than 3,000 years old, suggest modern day looting is on the rise. For the untrained looter, any rock feature has the potential to contain valuable goods and so grave after grave is torn apart. Many of these will contain no more than human and animal bones.

Discovering mummies offers the opportunity to increase interest and tourism in Mongolia. (The Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia)

Archaeologists’ interest in these burials lie in the information they contain for research, but this is worthless on the black antiquities market. But to steer looters away from these burials would be to teach them which ones to target for treasure and so this strategy is avoided.

Archaeologists working in northern Mongolia in 2017 found hundreds of looted sites, including an 800 year old cemetery consisting of at least 40 burials. Each and every one of them had been completely destroyed by looters looking for treasure. Human remains and miscellaneous artefacts such as bows, arrows, quivers, and clothing were left scattered on the surface.

Having survived over 800 years underground, these priceless bows, arrows, cloth fragments and bones likely have less than a year on the surface before they’re gone forever. This is not to mention the loss of whatever goods (gold, silver, gems) the looters decided was valuable enough to keep.

The mummy race

Archaeological teams are currently working against climate change, looters, and each other for the chance to unearth rare mummies in the region that are known to pique public interest within Mongolia and abroad. A 2017 exhibit at the National Museum of Mongolia featured two mummies and their impressive burial goods—one of which had been rescued from the hands of looters by archaeologists and local police. Though they appeared not to have been particularly high ranking individuals, their belongings displayed incredible variety, artistry and detail.

Burial sites may contain treasures, or just old bones. And looters won’t know until they’ve destroyed them. (Julia Kate Clark)

The result of natural processes rather than intentional mummification as in ancient Egypt, some of these mummies are preserved by very dry environments protected in caves and rock shelters. Others are ice mummies, interred in burials that were constructed in such a way that water seeped in and froze—creating a unique preservation environment.

Both preservation environments produce artifacts that rarely survive such long periods of time. This includes human tissues like skin and hair, clothing and tapestries, wooden artifacts, and the remains of plants and animals associated with the burial.

As looters zero in on these sites, and climate change melts ice and changes the environmental conditions in other yet unknown ways, archaeologists are racing to locate, and preserve these finds. But with little infrastructure, small budgets and almost no specialised training in how to handle such remains, there’s some concern about the long term preservation of even those remains archaeologists are able to rescue.

Efforts to provide training opportunities, international collaborations with mummy experts, and improved infrastructure and facilities are underway, but these collections are so fragile there is little time to spare.

What Mongolia can teach us

The situation in Mongolia could help us to understand and find new solutions to dealing with changes in climate and the economic drivers behind looting. Humans around the world in many different times have faced and had to adapt to climate change, economic strife and technological innovations.

There’s truth represented by a material record of the “things” left by ancient peoples and in Mongolia, the study of this record has led to an understanding of the impact of early food production and horse domestication, the emergence of new social and political structures and the dominance of a nomadic empire.

Energy Saving Lessons From Around the World

Smithsonian Magazine

An architect by training, Susan Piedmont-Palladino is the curator of Green Community, a new exhibit at Washington, D.C.'s National Building Museum that showcases what communities around the world are doing to build a sustainable future. From public transportation to repurposing old buildings to taking advantage of natural resources, the localities selected by Piedmont-Palladino and her advisory team exemplify the forefront of the green movement. She discussed the exhibit with Smithsonian's Brian Wolly.

How did you select these communities?
That was probably the biggest issue, because we are covering a topic that so many cities, towns, homes are doing something about, and many are doing a lot. But we wanted to try and find some communities from geographic areas that had been underrepresented. The tendency is to look to the coasts and to Western Europe and maybe Asia and so we deliberately looked south to see what was going on in Latin America, looked into the interior of the country to see some stories that hadn't been told.

We were looking for good stories and clear stories that we could communicate with the public and we were also looking for such a wide range that anyone who came to the exhibit could find something that they recognized as a place that they might live. We think we covered everything from Masdar City [in the United Arab Emirates], which is the glamour project, the most forward-looking and most aspirational—it's also the least-proven because they've only just broken ground—all the way down to Stella, Missouri or Starkville, Mississippi, which are the tiniest grassroots efforts.

How is the exhibit itself an example of green building?
We realized to do this [exhibit], we needed to walk the walk that we were talking. We had all new LED lighting, which we got some funding for in a grant through the Home Depot foundation, which has really helped us to green our building. Most of the cases are made from eco-glass, which is recycled glass that then can be recycled once again. We used steel, because that has such a high recycled content, along with recycled carpet and cork.

One of the other decisions that we made, which always strikes museum professionals as rather curious, is we opened up the entire exhibition to natural light. We don't have any original works on paper, anything that needs protection from light. We wanted to remind visitors that they are in the city while they are in this other world of the exhibition space. The ambient light is natural daylight, and so the cases can be lit on very low levels.

What are some of the communities doing to harvest natural resources like wind, solar or hydropower?
Copenhagen has its wind farm that is so beautiful; from space you can see it via Google Earth. There's a damless hydropower [project] that's being tested in the East River, a way for New York to use the tidal power of the river without actually putting in any dams.

The community in Hawaii, Hali'imaile, Hawaii is looking at the orientation of their development for solar and wind purposes, and then looking at the design of each building in that community. In that sense, harvesting natural resources trickles down through the master plan all the way into the buildings.

Image by ⓒ Verdant Power, Inc.. The next generation of water power comes from turbines that look like submerged jet engines. Called "damless" hydropower, these turbines rotate slowly with the current, harnessing clean energy without extensive adverse impacts. (original image)

Image by ⓒ Sarah Leen / National Geographic Collection. Photovoltaic panels are ideally suited to remote locations, as in this island community in Denmark, where the infrastructure required to connect to a centralized power grid is prohibitively expensive or too destructive to the natural landscape. (original image)

Image by ⓒ Foster + Partners / Courtesy of Masdar. Planned for completion in 2018, the plan of Masdar City draws upon the region's traditions of water courses, gardens, covered markets and narrow streets developed to adapt to the harsh desert envrionment. (original image)

Image by ⓒ Susan Piedmont-Palladino. Mendoza, Argentina's shady tree-lined streets are made possible by the canals that bring water down from the nearby Andes Mountains. (original image)

Image by Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Geography and Maps Division. Green communities are not new. James Oglethorpe's 1733 plan of Savannah has been admired by generations of urban designers for its integration of small green squares into the tartan grid of streets. (original image)

What are some of the quickest ways that towns and cities can become more energy-efficient?
There's a wonderful quote by Auguste Rodin, the artist, "What takes time, time respects." Unfortunately, the best efforts are really long-term efforts: they have to do with changing land-use policies, investing in mass transit and public transportation, disincentives for all sorts of other behaviors.

But on the quick list? Looking at empty lots and unclaimed land, thinking about ways to encourage people to use community gardens and local agriculture. Those are things that are seasonal and get people thinking about their environment. There are also recycling programs; cities can upgrade their street lights—there are new designs for LED street lighting—and all sorts of ways that infrastructure in the cities can be adapted.

What can people do on their own to get engaged in their hometown's city plans?
I think that embedded in the show, the message is, "get active." That can be going to your city council meetings, joining one of the civic boards that oversees decisions. Sometimes people are mobilized to prevent things from happening. That's often what gets people active in the first place, preventing a building they don't want, preventing a building from being torn down. And that sense of empowerment and action hopefully keeps people engaged. In the end, active participation is the only way to make change. That sounds like politics, and I guess it is politics, but I guess that's where design and planning find themselves enmeshed in how public policy gets formulated and changed.

There's an education barrier too, to how these decisions are made.
Right, as in, "this is the world that's given." There is a sense of some nameless "they," a third person plural that made it all happen and that is keeping it going as it is. One of the messages that we wanted to get across with this exhibit is that you have to change that third person plural to a first person plural. There's no "they," it's a "we." The community is nothing other than the people that make it up. Green doesn't happen without the community.

Sometimes discussions of green building gets bogged down in stereotypes of hippies versus industry, as if this were just a recent debate. But many of the aspects of green communities are as old as civilization itself.
Hopefully the range of communities we've exhibited has managed to elide some of those distinctions. We've also included some historic examples: we talk about the urban design of Savannah way back in the 18th century, and then we show a photograph of the contemporary city and you can find the same squares and the same virtues. Same thing talking about Mendoza, Argentina, which found a beautiful way to manage its water supply and in the process made the city habitable in an otherwise extremely hot, dry environment.

With the economic recession, there may be a lot of resistance to investing in some of the initiatives showcased in the exhibit. What argument would you make to a state or city budget meeting about the need for green building?
Now is the time to go ahead and say, "look, we only have so much money, we can either make the hard choices that are going to see us through generations of doing things right. Or we're going to continue to do things wrong." And it's very hard to fix problems on the urban planning and infrastructure scale. If you do it wrong, you inherit that problem forever. Sprawl is one of those, all these decisions are with us for a long time. Ultimately, the green decisions are the decisions that are most frugal. They may seem expensive or inconvenient, but in the end it will actually save us the most in terms of capital resources and human capital.

I did an interview with [architect] Paolo Soleri for the Building Museum's magazine; he got a lifetime achievement award at the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt Design Museum that year [in 2005]. I asked him when did he start thinking about these things, living differently, and his whole theory about Italy and we're known for being cheap."

I just thought that was a delightfully refreshing idea, it didn't really come from any lofty ideology; it came with a sense of frugality.

Correspondence, Abbott H. Thayer to Clara A. May 1890-1899

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Thomas B. Brumbaugh research material on Abbott Handerson Thayer and other artists, 1876-1994 (bulk 1960s-1994); e Also located at; a Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Abbott Handerson Thayer was born in Boston, Massachusetts on August 12, 1849 to a distinguished family. He moved from Boston to Brooklyn during his childhood, where he attended the National Academy of Design. Thayer often used his wife, Kate Bloede Thayer, her sister Gertrude, and his three children Mary, Gerald and Gladys as models. He also used Clara A. May as a model. His subjects included ethereal angels, landscapes, women, children, and flowers. When Kate died, Thayer's entire outlook on art and life changed. It had been Kate's family that introduced Thayer to the sense of idealism that comes from a German family who had immigrated to the United States. He had learned about the romanticism surrounding art and literature from the Bloedes, all of which encouraged the artist to paint perfectly beautiful figures. Later in life, Thayer established a permanent household in Dublin, New Hampshire, with his new wife, Emma Beach. He loved to paint the surrounding mountains and birds. Interestingly, Charles Lang Freer was one of Thayer's patrons.

Clara May was one of Thayer's models. May met Thayer at the summer colony of Dublin in New Hampshire, where the two families were neighbors. Their friendship lasted around ten years, but this friendship withered following May's marriage to Reverend Paine. Following her marriage, May no longer worked as a model for Thayer.

Gerald Thayer was one of Abbott Thayer's sons, who wrote an unfinished thank you letter to May which was sent along with Abbott's letter.

Gift of Susan A. Hobbs.

This folder is an amalgamation of letters written by Abbott H. Thayer to his model and friend, Clara A. May. Also included is a thank-you letter from Thayer's son, Gerald, to May.

Rice Can Help Save Salmon If Farms Are Allowed to Flood

Smithsonian Magazine

Jacob Katz stands atop a long, narrow wall of rock and gravel, gazing east over an expanse of off-season rice fields a few miles west of Sacramento. The sky is winter gray and the levee clay is damp and sticky after a brief morning shower.

“When some people look out here, they see a field of mud,” says Katz, a fishery biologist with the conservation group California Trout. “I see the potential for a biological solar panel that can power our entire river system.”

Katz is leading an ecological experiment that places thousands of two-inch Chinook salmon in inundated rice fields for a few weeks, before releasing the fish into the Sacramento River to continue their seaward migration. Katz is interested in how access to floodplains may improve the young salmon’s odds of surviving to adulthood and, eventually, returning to the Sacramento to spawn, a lifecycle that is increasingly hard for salmon to complete due to alterations to the river. Dubbed the Nigiri Project—a reference to the sushi presentation featuring a slab of fish slung over a wedge of rice—the annual experiment has been scaled up over the years, from 10,000 small salmon at its start in 2012 to 50,000 this winter.

Each year, the baby salmon have grown at phenomenally fast rates thanks to an abundance of natural food in the flooded fields. Moreover, their odds of reaching the ocean, it seems, are increased. In the 2013 experiment, 66 of the rice paddy salmon were fitted with surgically implanted acoustic tags. These fish were seven times more likely to be detected by a curtain of hydrophones strung beneath the Golden Gate Bridge than tagged salmon left to navigate the perilous main stem of the river, according to Katz.

Katz and several project collaborators—including University of California, Davis scientists, the California Department of Water Resources and a conservation group called Cal Marsh and Farm—next hope to scale up their experiment to a full-fledged undertaking involving thousands of acres of farmland and perhaps ten million juvenile salmon. The goal is to restore the Sacramento River system’s annual flooding cycle, which native fish species evolved to depend upon.

Before dams and levees tamed the Sacramento early last century, a million or more salmon spawned in the river’s mountain headwaters each year. Other fish species and bird life teemed there as well. Katz says the knee-deep water that spilled out of the main river channel each winter and flooded the Central Valley had much to do with the region’s productivity. This shallow water moved slowly downstream, and even in the bleak days of winter, sunlight sparked a photosynthetic explosion of life. Small salmon, born in gravel beds a hundred miles upriver, thrived in this ephemeral habitat. As the floodwaters receded, the fish spilled back into the river in prime condition to swim to the ocean. The phytoplankton and invertebrate life born on the floodplains were likewise drained into the river, providing food for other fish species downstream.

“But that entire process has been almost surgically removed from the river system,” Katz says. “The river is now straight-jacketed between two rock walls.” Today, fish—both big and small—are confined to the deep, turbulent and rather unproductive waters of the river’s main stem. In this hostile environment, Chinook salmon smolts face great odds of being eaten by predators or killed by water pumps. Meanwhile, the adjacent floodplains remain dry much of the year and are used in spring and summer for farming and pasture.

The idea behind the Nigiri Project is that intensive agriculture and a thriving natural ecosystem can coexist on the same acreage if river water is simply allowed to spread across the land at key times of the year, just like it used to. “The economy and the environment don’t have to be at odds,” Katz says.

Image by Veronica Corbet. A juvenile salmon being measured for the Nigiri Project. (original image)

Image by Alastair Bland. Fat young salmon get measured for the Nigiri Project. (original image)

Image by Alastair Bland. John Brennan, owner of Robbins Rice Company, stands ready near the flooded field being used for the Nigiri Project. (original image)

Image by Jacob Katz (back left) and John Brennan of the Nigiri Project discuss the day's work. (original image)

Image by Alastair Bland. A project member holds a survey map of the Upper Yolo Bypass. (original image)

What Katz and his team want to see is a notch cut into the top of a levee about 20 miles northwest of the state capital. This would allow water, even in low-rain winters, to spill into an old floodplain on the west side of the river known as the Yolo Bypass. For a century this uninhabited 100-square-mile depression has only received water during brief rainy periods and summer irrigation for crops. If the levee is modified, millions of newly born salmon migrating downriver would spread over these fields with the floodwater, feasting for several weeks and eventually reconnecting with the main river many miles downstream in the brackish delta.

That farming and wild fisheries can thrive side-by-side is well known to other aquatic biologists. Zeb Hogan, a biology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, has studied Southeast Asia’s Mekong River system for almost 20 years. Every year, the floodplains adjacent to the Mekong are inundated during the rainy months. Then the same process Katz describes kicks in: Sunlight triggers a bloom of phytoplankton and invertebrate life, which, on the Mekong, creates the foundation of the world’s most productive inland fishery. When the floodplains drain again, the fields are intensively farmed.

“Just because people are growing rice along a river doesn’t mean it can’t be a healthy river,” Hogan says. Environmentalists are now fighting an incoming wave of several proposed dams on the lower Mekong, which they fear could squander much of the river’s productivity.

The benefits of allowing river water to move naturally across a landscape reach beyond fish and wildlife. Floodplain soils are fertilized, which supports farming. Water that slowly migrates over a flat expanse of land may percolate downward, recharging depleted aquifers, while nutrients that might otherwise go on to create oxygen-free dead zones along the coast have the chance to precipitate out. Flooding fields with moving river water also offers a cleaner means of washing away unmarketable agricultural waste, like trimmings and stalks, which may otherwise be burned in open piles, causing air pollution.

Controlled inundation of floodplains can even serve as a counterintuitive way to protect against floods. Scientists studying the Danube River, for example, believe the deadly torrents of 2006 could have been restrained had upstream floodplains been accessible to the rising waters. Rene Henery, a biologist with the conservation group Trout Unlimited, says relying on levees to contain rain-swollen waterways will produce failures and disasters. On the other hand, letting some of that water disperse across uninhabited farmland reduces pressure on critical levees that are protecting urban areas. With every drop of the world’s freshwater and every parcel of its arable land becoming more precious all the time, Henery says it’s increasingly vital that these resources be efficiently used and applied toward overlapping goals.

“We’ve been managing our waterways as though ecology, flood control and agriculture are at odds with each other,” Henery says. “We’ve overlaid a management plan on the interwoven values of a floodplain, and we’ve created the illusion these values are separate.”

On the Sacramento River, Katz hopes that next winter at least a million smolts will be growing fat and healthy on the inundated Yolo floodplain—and he says there’s no time to lose in moving forward. “The urgency is real in the capacity to lose these species on our watch in the next decade or two,” Katz warns. “We have to do this soon. Our backs are against the wall.” 

Richard Estes' Incredibly Realistic Paintings Require a Double Take

Smithsonian Magazine

Times Square is a good place to go unnoticed. A decade ago, Richard Estes stood there, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Sesame Street characters and tour bus promoters, and snapped a series of photos. With so many people doing the same thing, it’s unlikely anyone gave much thought to the septuagenarian shutterbug. But for half a century, the art world has lauded Estes for his photorealist paintings, which he creates from photographs. The work that resulted from his Times Square pictures that day and 45 other paintings are now on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The exhibition, “Richard Estes’ Realism,” debuted last week and is open through February 2015. Curators say it’s the world’s most comprehensive Estes exhibition ever, and his largest American showcase in nearly four decades. The show was previously at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, where Patterson Sims, an independent curator and a friend of Estes, suggested they do a retrospective. “He’s just really interested in painting, and just finding extremely complex and interestingly challenging images to paint,” Sims says.

Estes, now 82, lives and works primarily in New York City and has been spending time in coastal Maine since the 1960s. It’s there that he produces nature paintings, which tend to receive less attention than his iconic New York City works. Both of those locales—street and stream—are in the exhibition, as well as scenes from Paris, London, Venice and elsewhere.

Estes is reticent about the underlying symbolism in his work. “You’re never going to get Richard to admit layers of meaning,” Sims says. “It just isn’t the way he’s built. However, he is a very sophisticated person, so all of those issues come into play.” For example, an Estes trademark is visually bisecting his compositions—a bridge on one side and a river on the other, for example. Sims says that technique presents a “duality” that could stem from the artist’s experience as a gay man. “Interior-exterior is an important thing for him, because I think his interior is quite different from his exterior,” Sims says.

As it has been for artists of so many generations, New York City is Estes’ muse. While he depicts its icons, like the Brooklyn Bridge, he also captures the city as only a New Yorker could, giving life to the city’s anonymous inhabitants—the drug store cashiers working around Valentine’s Day, a young man on a bus near the famous Flatiron Building, which is only subtly reflected in a passing car. “Part of the power of these pictures is that there’s kind of like a million stories embedded in them,” Sims says. “If you go to any of these locales, these are the stage sets on which our lives have been led.”

“It’s such a mess,” Estes says of his city, spoken like a true local. “Everything is chaos.”

His paintings take on new significance as the city changes. “They are totally historical documents,” Mark Bessire, director of the Portland Museum, says about the works. Paintings in the exhibition show Paul’s Bridal Accessories on West 38th Street (since demolished) and telephone booths with rotary phones. Even scenes from a decade ago contain remnants of the past, such as the Fleet Bank and Virgin Megastore in Times Square, which have both since closed. An enormous painting of the Brooklyn Bridge, from 1991, takes on a different tone when viewers spot the World Trade Center in the distance, ethereal, like the memory it has become.

As the city changes, so do photographic techniques, and Estes has adapted. He says that he doesn’t like taking pictures with his cell phone (“I’ve tried it and they’re not really good enough”), but he does use digital film ("Everybody does. You can't even get the other stuff."). He uses iPhoto and Photoshop to prepare photos before recreating them in paint. His paintings aren't always entirely true to life; some contain elements from several different photos. For View from Hiroshima (1990), he didn’t like the landscape as it existed, so he moved some mountains into view.

Photorealism became popular in the 1960s. “He was the hot ticket,” Bessire says about Estes at the time. Then, Bessire says, “the art world kind of turned their back.” But that didn’t stop Estes. “He kept at it, and now,” Bessire says, “they’re coming back to him.”

“Richard Estes’ Realism” is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through February 8, 2015.


Richard Estes' Realism (Portland Museum of Art)

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Google’s Delivery Drones Will Airlift Supplies Practically Anywhere

Smithsonian Magazine

Much of the world is inaccessible by road, and not just the spots you might think—rainforests, deserts, the Arctic tundra. No roads connect Alaskan capital Juneau to the rest of the North American continent. And you can only reach Iquitos, a city of nearly half a million on the Amazon River in Peru, by boat or plane.

To be physically cut off from neighboring cities and infrastructure is to be cut off from resources in emergencies. How do you get specialized medicine, food or other supplies to someone who needs it without chartering a plane or hiring a boat?

In August, Google X, the search giant’s far-reaching research lab that’s responsible for the development of projects like Google Glass and the self-driving car, unveiled its solution. Project Wing is a drone-based delivery system that aims to dispatch what people need—or want—to them faster than any other modern delivery service could dream of.

Initially, the Project Wing team wanted to see if they could airlift defibrillators in medical emergencies, but they quickly realized they needed to think more broadly. Delivery isn't just about emergency supplies; it is also about satisfying unforseen everyday needs ("I need toothpaste!") and snack attacks ("I could really go for a Hershey bar right now") no matter where you are.

“What excited us from the beginning was that if the right thing could find anybody just in the moment that they need it, the world might be a radically better place,” Astro Teller, director of Google X, told The Atlantic.

When the team conducted its first in-the-wild test on a ranch near Warwick, Australia (a town about 80 miles southwest of Brisbane), the Project Wing craft successfully delivered a variety of payloads, including candy bars and farm animal medicine, across some 30 flights.

The tests were two years in the making. Nick Roy, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticist with a background in drone navigation systems, led the efforts to build a stable, autonomous and reliable delivery drone.

The Project Wing craft went through many variations before the team settled on its current form, a helicopter and flying wing hybrid that’s quite unique to aerospace. The so-called “tail sitter” uses its rotors to take off, land and hover vertically. It rotates 90 degrees to fly with the wing horizontal, a boon for speed and aerodynamics. Its wingspan is about five feet, and it flies at an altitude of 130 to 200 feet.

At delivery, the craft doesn’t land, but rather lowers its payload down. A winch on the fuselage of the drone lowers packages on a sort of high-strength fishing line. A bundle of electronics, called the “egg,” goes with the package. The “egg” is responsible for knowing when a package has reached the ground, releasing it and signaling the winch to retract the line. Packages descend at about 22 miles per hour, but then slow to 4.4 miles per hour to make for a soft landing. 

Although the system fundamentally works right now, Google is stressing that the current Project Wing craft is only a platform for testing and might not reflect the final product. They’re also considering varying models for different types of payloads and different locations. The team still has years of work ahead to perfect the system’s autonomous flying modes and logic.

In fact, the Mountain View company is approaching Project Wing with the same caution that it is for its self-driving car project, another Google X brainchild. The team must use its craft to learn about potential flying scenarios and hazards and to train the system for future flights.

Such learning, of course, requires constant human intervention. A drone itself can easily navigate from Point A to Point B using GPS and pre-determined waypoints, but what happens if something goes awry? Skies are far more unpredictable than roadways, after all. Project Wing craft must deal with birds, weather events and trees—not to mention other drones.

So if a craft encounters an obstruction, it will ping back to the command station for guidance and use the incident as a learning event. “If a self-flying vehicle is trying to lower something and it goes down three feet and gets stuck, should it go home? Should it land?...That would be a good moment for it to raise its hand and say back to someone looking at the delivery control software, ‘What should I do?’” Teller explained in his interview with The Atlantic.

Google will also need to contend with regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration and others before any delivery system will be able to take flight. (Australia has laxer drone laws, which allowed the Wing team to test freely there.) Thankfully, the company’s self-driving car initiative means it’s no stranger to lobbying.

That prowess might afford Project Wing a leg-up compared to other proposed drone-delivery networks, such as Amazon’s Prime Air. What’s more, Google’s crafts have a longer theoretical range and higher potential speed compared to Amazon’s octo-copters thanks to their hybrid-wing design.

Mike Toscano, CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, explained the difference to Mashable: "Amazon's model was a 10-mile radius—five pounds within 30 minutes… Now you've got Google saying, 'I'm going to places like the Outback, where you've got 100 miles to deliver something'… This is the way to get those long distances."

Both companies, however, face a similar slew of obstacles, many of which critics are very quick to point out. One opinion pins Project Wing’s goal as practically impossible, citing the complex landscape of urban—and real—jungles and the unpredictability of the skies.  

Fortunately, the Wing team is keenly aware of the enormity of the task ahead and realizes it will take years to train and perfect the system to make it as safe and reliable as FedEx—minus the trucks clogging up the streets.

Mississippi - Cultural Destinations

Smithsonian Magazine

Ethel Wright Mohamed Stitchery Museum
Ethel Wright Mohamed is often referred to as the "Grandma Moses of Stitchery". View over 100 stitchery memory pictures representive of Mississippi Delta family life at this Belzoni museum. Many of her other pieces are on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institute.

Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art
Although rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina, this Biloxi attraction found a temporary home nearby, and the exhibits are intact. Ceramic masterpieces on display include those by the "Mad Potter of Biloxi."

Doll Collection at Blue Mountain College
Sure to please doll lovers of all ages, the college's Guyton Library offers an impressive collection of antique dolls dating from 1875.

Multicultural Center & Museum (Canton)
This interactive museum features multi-media exhibits on such topics as slavery, civil rights, early African American businesses, education, family and music. Among the highlights is an exhibit about African American nun Thea Bowman.

Mitchell Farms
Explore a Mississippi farm as it was in the early 1900s. This working farm in Collins features a restored log house, smoke house, wood shed, brick outhouse and other farm buildings. You can also purchase in-season fruit, vegetables, watermelons, green and dried peanuts, as well as wood carvings by artist Nelda Mitchell. In September, check out the pumpkin patch and corn maze.

Freedom Summer Trail
The Freedom Summer Trail is a driving tour of 15 Hattiesburg sites significant to the 1964 Freedom Summer, a project to register black Mississippi voters, and the civil rights movement. Also in Hattiesburg is the African American Military History Museum, which displays hundreds of artifacts, photos and memorabilia.

Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience
Since 1986, the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in Utica has preserved and documented the long and rich tradition of Jewish life in the South.

Camp Van Dorn World War II Museum
More than 40,000 troops trained for World War II action at the very primitive camp near Centreville. This unique museum tells their story.

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
Plan to spend the day because your family will not want to leave this hands-on children's museum in Gulfport.

International Museum of Muslim Cultures
America's first and only Islamic History Museum is currently featuring its inaugural exhibit, "Islamic Moorish Spain: It's Legacy to Europe and the West." This exhibit explores the Golden Age of Muslim rule in Spain and its influence on Europe as the West. Jackson

Eudora Welty House
The Eudora Welty House is a literary museum located in the historic Belhaven neighborhood of Jackson. The garden at the house is beautifully reconstructed to the 1925-1945 period when the internationally acclaimed author worked at her mother's side planting, watering, and weeding.

Harrison House
Situated on property owned by African-Americans since the turn of the 20th century in Fayette, this home is a virtual time capsule with displays of memorabilia, books, contracts, deeds and pictures.

Landrum's Country Homestead and Village
This unique village is a re-creation of a late 1800s settlement. The Laurel museum comes to life with over 50 buildings and displays, nestled in a beautifully landscaped setting covering over 10 acres of lush pecan trees, streams and southern greenery.

Blues and Roots Music Sites:

Mississippi John Hurt Home
Visit the Carrollton home of blues legend Mississippi John Hurt. A two-hour tour includes his home, church, gravesite and the Old Community Store where Hurt played, as well as a museum dedicated to Hurt and the blues.

Rock 'n Roll & Blues Heritage Musuem
This Clarksdale museum is a nirvana for lovers of American roots music and its progeny. Check out original 78 RPMs, juke boxes, antique gramophones, radios, scores of concert and movie posters.

Delta Blues Museum
Blues enthusiasts flock to this Clarksdale institution, packed with artifacts and memorabilia. Don't miss the remains of the cabin where Muddy Waters lived while a sharecropper and tractor driver.

Robert Johnson Heritage & Blues Museum
Located in the historic district of Crystal Springs, this museum is a tribute to the "King of the Delta Blues Singers" and houses a collection of Robert Johnson murals. Guitars, donated by musicians, are also on display.

Elvis Presley Birthplace & Museum
The Tupelo birthplace of the "King of Rock and Roll" includes the modest home Elvis' father built, a statue of Elvis with his first guitar, memorial chapel, park, story wall, museum and gift shop.

Jimmie Rodgers Museum
The "Father of Country Music" is immortalized in this collection of memorabilia located in his hometown of Meridian.

Howlin' Wolf Museum
Explore a Blues museum featuring the history and artifacts of Howlin' Wolf and other bluesmen such as Big Joe Williams and Bukka White. The museum is located in West Point, Howlin' Wolf's hometown.

Native American Heritage Sites:

American-Indian Artifacts Museum
Although open by appointment only, this free museum in Columbus is worth the trip. It holds native artifacts dating back thousands of years.

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Reservation
Headquarters of Choctaw Tribal Council, also located on the reservation are the Choctaw Indian Museum, crafts store, and the Pearl River Resort, consisting of two casinos, two championship golf courses and a water park.

Emerald Mound
The second largest Indian ceremonial mound in the nation, built around 1400 A.D. by ancestors of the Natchez Indians, covers nearly eight acres near Natchez, Miss. A trail leads to the top where visitors can view a primary and secondary mound.

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians
This National Historic Landmark in Natchez was the location of the ceremonial mound center for the Natchez tribe from 1200 until 1730 and today includes a museum, educational programs, reconstructed mounds and a dwelling. Downtown Natchez is the oldest permanent settlement on the Mississippi River.

Civil War Sites:

Lee Home Museum
Built by Major Thomas Blewett in the late 1840s, this Columbus home was the former residence of Confederate Gen Stephen D. Lee and now houses Civil War artifacts.

Civil War Interpretive Center (Corinth)
This impressive interpretation center explains military and civilian experiences during the Civil War. Also includes exhibits relevant to African-American heritage. Corinth

Overlooking the Mississippi River, this Federal style mansion in Natchez was named for the French fort built nearby in 1716. Rosalie served as Union headquarters during the Civil War occupation.

National Military Park (Vicksburg)
Established in 1899, this beautiful 1,800-acre park's marble and granite monuments, strategic markers and cannon displays commemorate the 47-day Civil War siege and defense of Vicksburg. The Vicksburg National Cemetery is also located here.

In Northern Norway, Reindeer Racing and a "Joik" Singing Showdown Welcome in Spring

Smithsonian Magazine

The humble village of Kautokeino (cow-too-cane-o) in Norway’s far north boasts one hotel, two churches, thousands of colorful folk costumes and one of the most improbable Easter festivals in all of Scandinavia. After slumbering through the Arctic winter’s constant darkness, Kautokeino comes alive each spring amid the vast whiteness of Scandinavia’s Lapland region for a magical, four-day reawakening called the Sami Easter Festival. Townspeople emerge from snow-laden homes in ornate finery of blue, gold, red and silver to attend three nights of elaborate folk and pop concerts, reindeer and snowmobile races and Easter celebrations.

“Traditionally this was the last time for the Sami people to gather before moving their reindeer herds,” Knut Hansvold of the Northern Norway Tourism Board told me. “But now it’s a little of everything, celebrating Easter, baptisms, confirmations and weddings. It’s no longer so cold, the sun is back and it’s easier to travel.”

Christian customs are a relatively recent addition to the once-nomadic, shamanistic Sami culture, but the festival comes at the perfect time—just before 180,000 reindeer migrate from the high mountain plateaus of Finnmark County to lush coastal pastures in search of abundant food as calving time approaches. For the Sami themselves, it is a great time to party.

No such party would be complete without plenty of joik singing—an ancient, improvised lilting that channels the spirit of a person, animal or landscape, with or without lyrics. To American ears, joik singing may vaguely resemble Native American chanting, since it features hypnotic repetition, lilting and deep-throat undulation.

The festival features joik contests for adults and children and evening concerts incorporating modern versions of joiking, which add drums, guitars and other instruments to create a unique folk-rock style. One of last year’s headliners, Mari Boine, is a legendary representative of Norway on the world music scene who has been presenting Sami music to audiences across Europe and North America for decades. The final night’s televised Grand Prix show, complete with two emcees and live audience voting, is divided into two halves, one for pop bands and the other for solo joiks.

As popular as the festival is among Samis, it is virtually unknown elsewhere, including much of Norway. The few foreigners I met there included three girls from Oslo who had come because one had seen the festival advertised in a Norwegian brochure in California. The vast majority of attendees are locals decked out in brilliant costumes with meticulous needlework, as well as exquisite silver amulets and jewelry.

Sami women wearing brightly colored traditional attire. (Randall Hyman)

It is this use of folk attire as holiday wear, rather than tourist costume, that lends the celebration its grass-roots, homespun feel. At night, celebrants walk to concerts in subzero temperatures and blowing snow dressed in clothes that would look regal anywhere else. When I offered one young woman a ride to spare her the frigid weather, she told me the outfits were quite warm—almost too hot to wear inside.

“We get a new outfit every year for every occasion,” explained Lutheran minister Bjarne Gustad as we sat down to an afternoon meal of porridge and waffles after he conducted Easter morning services during the festival. “Every family has one person who specializes in sewing for everyone.”

While Bjarne is from southern Norway, his wife, Inger Anna Gaup, is Sami and spent her early years following the reindeer herd with her family, living in a lavoo—a reindeer-skin tent akin to a tipi. Looking at a painting on their living room wall of two lavoos dwarfed by a deep blue night sky in the snowy vastness of the high winter plateau, she shuddered.

“It was cold,” she explained. “When you live in a house, then you don’t need so much clothes. But when you live like that, you need much clothes. We lived in them, but the outside clothes we had with reindeer skins, that we took off to sleep.”

It was all quite normal, she said, and it was the only world they knew. “We used to play, used to make small lavoos with birch sticks, and run and ski, and make snow houses and play reindeer and I had to pull my sister along. That was what we saw in our world, reindeer, nature—that was what we played.”

At reindeer races the day before, I had watched the adult version of such play, as bulls exploded from mini horse-racing gates with skiers tethered behind them, tearing across an icy track. An elderly woman watching from her minivan in the parking lot invited me inside to take shelter from the icy winds. I asked about her beautiful Sami dress, which was green rather than the traditional blue, and she explained, “This is just a work dress, everyday wear.”

As another set of reindeer and skiers burst from the gates, she gazed toward the track with a critical eye. “This isn’t how we used to do it,” she mused. “We used sleds, and I won many, many races.”

Festival-goers enjoy the ice bar. (Randall Hyman)

Customs change, but the Sami Easter Festival is an intriguing mix of old and new, produced mostly by and for locals. Besides joik music, I spent four days sampling reindeer racing, motocross on snowmobiles, a hotel bar carved out of ice (with outdoor movies projected on a huge wall of the stuff) and a colorful handicrafts market filled with reindeer-skin boots, antler carvings and needlework. When it was all over, I reluctantly left Norway’s indigenous heartland, driving hours back to the coast along an empty highway through vast snowy tundra, hoping that when I returned someday, Kautokeino would still be alive with tradition and Sami culture.

The History of Snowshoe Racing

Smithsonian Magazine

Laurie Lambert is a runner, always has been, it seems. So when she was snowed in at her remote cabin in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains nine years ago, she strapped on a tiny pair of children’s snowshoes and went out for a long run.

“It was awesome,” she remembers. “I was like, wow, I think I could make a sport out of this. Little did I know it was already a sport.”

As Lambert soon found out, snowshoe racing has become an increasingly popular sport in the United States and abroad, where last January more than 5,000 people competed in the 37th running of La Ciaspolada Snowshoe Race in the Italian Dolomites, a ten-kilometer event won by a former Olympic marathoner from New Zealand. In the United States, this season began with a race in Truckee, California, in December, and ends in March with the National Snowshoe Championships in Cable, Wisconsin.

Mark Elmore, the sports director for the United States Snowshoe Association, was a die-hard endurance runner who started racing on snowshoes in 1989. “It added variety to the winter season,” he says. “And I really liked the people. There was a different mentality than road racing where you’re just trying to beat the other competitors. In snowshoeing, you’re racing against the course and the snow conditions. You’re competing against yourself a little more.”

Most of the enthusiasts are like Lambert – runners, cyclists or triathletes looking for a new challenge and another way to get outside and raise their heart rates. “It’s so much fun,” she says. “It’s fantastic exercise. I’ve run marathons and done all kinds of crazy things and it’s the best workout I’ve ever done.”

The rise of snowshoe racing parallels the rise in popularity of snowshoeing. According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, 3.4 million Americans traipsed through the winter wonderland on snowshoes in 2009, a 17.4 percent increase over 2008.

Divining when the snowshoe was invented is difficult because the ancient materials used to make them were perishable, but the consensus is they developed in Central Asia about 4000 B.C. Elmore says snowshoes may have facilitated crossing the Bering land bridge. They appear to have developed independently in both North America and Europe, with European snowshoes longer and narrower).

The traditional webbed snowshoe used in racing was created by American Indians. Explorer Samuel de Champlain wrote in his memoirs of them using “a kind of snowshoe that are two to three times larger than those in France, that they tie to their feet, and thus go on the snow, without sinking into it, otherwise they would not be able to hunt or go from one location to the other.”

In the 1830s, painter George Catlin depicted Indian use of snowshoes in paintings such as Snowshoe Dance at the First Snowfall and Buffalo Chase in Winter, Indians on Snowshoes. Tribes each developed their own shoe, differing in shape and size. The bear paw, an oval design, was short and wide and favored in forested areas. The Ojibwa shoe resembled a canoe, and its double toe helped the tribes of Manitoba cross diverse country. The Michigan, a snowhsoe credited to the Huron tribe, featured a long tail and was shaped like a tennis racket, allowing hunters to carry heavy loads of elk and buffalo.

The forerunners of snowshoe-racing associations were the snowshoe recreation clubs that began in Canada and the northeastern United States in the late 18th century. Outings in places including Montreal and northern New England towns were major events. To make the shoes easier to maneuver, the clubs shortened the long teardrop trapper and tracker’s snowshoe to about 40 inches.

Image by Dino Panato / Getty Images. The La Ciaspolada Snowshoe Race in the Italian Dolomites is a ten-kilometer event. (original image)

Image by Dino Panato / Getty Images. Snowshoe racing has become an increasingly popular sport. Last January more than 5,000 people competed in the 37th running of La Ciaspolada Snowshoe Race. (original image)

Image by The Granger Collection, NYC. The forerunners of snowshoe-racing associations were the snowshoe recreation clubs that began in Canada and the northeastern United States in the late 18th century. Outings in places including Montreal and northern New England towns were major town events. (original image)

Image by Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.. In the 1830s, painter George Catlin depicted Indian use of snowshoes in paintings such as Snowshoe Dance at the First Snowfall. (original image)

Image by Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.. Buffalo Chase in Winter, Indians on Snowshoes, by George Catlin. (original image)

Image by From the collection of the Hudson Museum, The University of Maine. Photograph by Stephen Bicknell. Ojibwe Woman, 19th century. The Ojibwa shoe resembled a canoe, and its double toe helped the tribes of Manitoba cross diverse country. (original image)

Beginning in the 1970s, designers of racing snowshoes trimmed them and lightened them even more, using the type of aluminum alloy used in spacecraft. The newest models now weigh as little as 16 ounces a shoe. “The modern racing snowshoe is a marvel that allows you to cover ground on soft snow so much easier,” Elmore says. “If you can walk or jog, you can run on snowshoes. There aren’t any specific skills you have to learn.”

In Europe, where snowshoe racing has been growing for decades, the Snowshoe Cup features six races in five countries from January to March. Organized racing in Europe began earlier than in the United States with the first running of La Ciaspolada in 1972.

In the United States, races are held in most regions of the country, including the Snow or No Snow Race in Flagstaff, Arizona. The courses vary as widely as the snow conditions. Elmore says there’s usually powder out West, where some events require organizers break the trail. In the East, snow conditions tend to be icier and thus the courses tend to follow packed trails, which are faster and require less effort than breaking a trail in powder. Distances are often ten kilometers, but there are also half marathons and even marathons, where the winners post times in the neighborhood of four and a half hours. While records exist for various races, the differences in course conditions make them hard to compare. Big prizes used to be awarded to race winners, but those have faded with the recent economic crises.

Chary Griffin, 62, who lives in Cazenovia, southeast of Syracuse, New York, trains six miles every other day on a packed trail. She stows a box of racing snowshoes in her car to lend to friends so they can come along. Anyone, she says, can run in snowshoes. “It’s my winter sport,” she says. “I’m serious about getting other people hooked into this.”

Scott Gall, 36, of Cedar Falls, Iowa, moved to Wyoming after running distances at Wabash College and fell into snowshoe racing. He found it wasn’t as easy as strapping on snowshoes and taking a jog. “The first ten minutes are killer no matter what you’ve been doing,” he says. “You just have to adjust to it. It’s a lot of work to have things strapped to your feet. But once you’re ten minutes into it, your heart rate settles down.”

Lambert, Griffin and Gall clearly enjoy the competition against others and themselves. (Gall finished second in last year’s national championship.) But they seem to enjoy, just as much, if not more, the bracing air, the diverse landscape, and the joy of being outdoors when most others are huddled inside. As Gall notes, it’s warmer in winter snowshoeing in the woods than running on the roads.

“Going tromping through the woods on a full moon night is awesome,” he says. “It’s not just the competition. It’s getting outside in the fresh air and doing something fun. Somewhere along the way, they told adults you can’t enjoy it when the snow flies.”

Lambert regularly trains above 9,500 feet in New Mexico, below the tree line. But she recalls the stunning beauty of a world cup race she participated in in Austria. “That was way above the trees on the Dachstein Glacier. It felt like we were visitors on some other planet,” she says. “Otherworldly.”

How to Maintain Your Garden Zen at the Philadelphia Flower Show

Smithsonian Magazine

March is that month of meteorological madness that blows in like a lion only to tease with the warmth of a gentle lamb. But it also marks the annual opening of a springtime extravaganza, the Philadelphia Flower Show—the nation’s largest and oldest horticulture exhibition, with spectacular displays of floral abundance.

Beginning this weekend, thousands of amateur and expert gardeners, seed collectors, floral arrangers, botanical artists and ordinary thrill seekers will head like supplicants to their mecca. This year’s show, running from March 5 to 13 and encompassing some ten acres inside the cavernous Pennsylvania Convention Center, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the nation’s National Parks.

With landscape designs honoring Muir Woods, Olympic National Park, Hawa’i Volcanoes National Park, Arches National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Teton, Saguaro, Yellowstone, Valley Forge, Acadia, Cape Cod, as well as the Appalachian and Pacific Coast Trails, the show is expected to attract thousands of enthusiasts.

Other highlights include a miniature railroad display, a climbing wall, a live butterfly experience, ranger stations, a food court, a beer garden, a hands-on craft workshop and a robust wine and liquor tasting. (How else to ease the aches and pains that come of a gardener’s digging, hauling, weeding and other toil.)

The show is best known for its over-the-top opening display, always a breathtaking experience. This year the architecture of the historic lodges inside the National Parks will be recreated in a wood and stone structure called Big Timber Lodge. The display includes evergreens, hyacinths and crocuses, cosmos and Echinacea and other woodland species. Giant overhead screens featuring the animals of the nation’s parks in video, featuring a rumbling herd of bison on the move and the chatter of songbirds will compliment a reconstruction of giant California redwoods and a 12-foot waterfall.

The juried show awards its coveted Pennsylvania Horticulture Society Gold and Blue Medals based on criteria such as “cultural perfection,” meaning that flowers, foliage and fruit are in the height of vigor and health; or “distinctiveness,” meaning that the aesthetics are of the utmost merit; as well as notable “rarity,” “bloom,” “fruit,” “maturity” and “difficulty.” A host of other prestigious awards are offered based on the rigorous standards that have evolved over the show’s 187-year history and upheld by a team of nearly 200 discerning judges.

One such judge is the Smithsonian Institution’s Cindy Brown, manager of the Smithsonian Gardens horticulture collections and education. We caught up with Brown just before her departure for the City of Brotherly Love. Brown, who says she’s been going to the show and leading tours for more than a decade, offered a number of tips for navigating the displays and making the most of the experience.

What’s your best advice for fighting the crowds?

Bring your patience. Look on the website ahead of time and make a plan. Know what they have to offer because they feature lectures and presentations, so know when to be there for those instead of just walking around.

What’s your favorite out-of-the-way exhibit?

The Hamilton Horticourt. That is where everyone can bring in their own prized plants—their kalanchos and jades, or crassulas—and be judged by experts in the field. I like it because there, everyone can be a part of the flower show.

What do you look for in the exhibits?

I’m always looking for new ideas on what to be able to grow? And what combinations of plants grow well together. In years past the designers haven’t always had the best combinations. They look beautiful. But if you were a gardener, you would know that they had mixed shade and sun plants. But they are doing much better in encouraging exhibitors to do combinations that actually work. So that the amateur gardener can get really good ideas for what to grow and how to display them for plant combinations. For hardscaping, I always look at what they are using for the paths. We always need good ideas for creating pathways in a garden.

Do new things turn up?

Yes. I always like to look at what the universities and the high school tech groups are doing for their exhibits because they are educational as well. Last year they did one about how to use recyclables in your yard and they had created these rain chains—they were beautiful and made out of bells—so you were learning how to both recycle the water and to spark up your garden. I also saw this fascinating wind chime that was hand-constructed using pennies and old keys. So creative.

What stands out in terms of must-see designers?

I would say give all of them a chance because each year they do something unique. I like to walk through and then turn around, and go through again—using a different route because I always find something else intriguing.

So what would you say is the plant to have in your garden this year?

I don’t know. A Redwood (laughs)? But if you don’t have the space for a 300-foot tree, I’d say they’ll probably do a good job highlighting some of the evergreen trees that you would see in some of the National Parks and that you could incorporate into your garden, as well as some of the cactuses and succulents. I’m big into trough gardens because I’m always looking for those little succulents to put in my small townhouse garden.

So gardeners are dealing with the nuances of climate change even in their backyard gardens. California gardeners are being asked not to water. Any helpful suggestions?

Sustainable gardening. Look at water-wise gardening and plant things that don’t need so much moisture, things that are growing naturally and natively in the climate and in your zone. Many of us have zone denial and grow things that just don’t work in our areas, but we have to know what zone we’re in, what is the climate, the weather conditions and then we have to pick appropriate plants so that we don’t have to go out of our way to take care of them. Even if it is a native plant, make sure that it’s a plant that can grow in native conditions. I would never try to grow a willow tree in a place that is really dry because a willow needs lots of water and likes a lot of moisture. We have to be careful that we are protecting our resources.

How do you keep track of all that you’re learning at the show, all of your ideas for your garden?

I always like to take pictures and I tell everyone on my tour groups to take pictures, especially if you want a horticulturalist to identify a plant for you. I can’t ID a plant if you tell me it’s green on the bottom and blue on the top; but if you show me a picture. And if you bring back pictures, you can take them to your nursery and ask for them to identify the flowers.

So at the end of the day after you’ve seen everything at the show and you have that last moment of gardener’s zen. What’s the final thing you do before you leave?

I usually go back to the entrance just to revisit. The Big Timber Lodge, I’m looking forward to seeing that. I also go to my favorite shops in the marketplace and pick out a pair of earrings, a favorite plant, a cool tool to add to my shed. Or I might go and sample some of the wines at the tasting. I might also linger at the cool little exhibits. Some people are completely overwhelmed by the complexity of the large displays, but the ones that are created by the local clubs are full of ideas for backyards and small homes.

Booze Cruise: The Best Local Liquors to Try While Traveling

Smithsonian Magazine

If you figure out a way to politely turn down baijiu, China's favorite hard liquor, please let us know. Photo courtesy of Flickr User ksbuehler.

Where there is sugar, yeast will find it—and so we have alcohol. The natural wonder we call fermentation has been discovered and replicated independently in nearly every region of earth, and virtually nowhere is there a culture today in which people don’t enjoy tossing back a few. But what do they toss back? That depends on the place, and one of the simplest joys of traveling is tasting the local tipple—often offered by locals to their guests as one of the most universally recognized gestures of hospitality. While globalization has certainly leveled out the contours of the international drinking world, making the best Japanese sakes and European beers and French wines easily accessible almost anywhere, many alcoholic beverages still evoke the places where they were born. For some rare and regional brews, you may even need to travel for a taste. Here are several drinks well worth a journey—and, usually, at least a sip.

Cashew wine, Belize. Good luck finding this drink anywhere but among the jungles, swamps and keys of Central America’s littlest country. Cashew trees, native to Brazil, are grown throughout Latin America, and they produce not only a nut. The entire fruit of the cashew tree is a gourd-shaped, sweet and fleshy orb from which the familiar “nut” hangs off the bottom. These are separated from the fruit and processed, while the so-called cashew apple is crushed into juice and fermented into wine. If you’re in Belize in May, make an appearance at the Crooked Tree Cashew Festival, where cashew nuts, preserves and wine are prepared and served. Throughout the year, cashew wine is available in most local stores, though how you’ll like the stuff is hard to say. The drink is popular among Belizeans, while many foreigners say they can’t get past the first sip. If you’re up for a real imbibing adventure, inquire with villagers about local wines, and you’ll as likely find yourself escorted into a makeshift fermenting shed where you’ll be treated to a variety of local wines straight from the barrel. Local specialties include carrot wine, grapefruit wine, sea grape wine, ginger wine, sugarcane wine and breadfruit wine. Pace yourself.

Baijiu, China. I like to remind the people close to me, especially on or around my birthday, that “friends don’t make friends drink shots.” But if you’re going to China, get ready to knock ‘em back—because anyone who takes a liking to you or your friends just might call for a round of baijiu, a notorious and potent hard alcohol made from sorghum or other grains and which it’s considered a grave insult to refuse. The problem is, sometimes it never stops coming, according to travelers who shudder at the recollection of baijiu-soaked banquets or so-called “liquid lunches.” Indeed, baijiu bullying is a favored pastime among many Chinese gentlemen (women are generally left out of the fray). Author Peter Hessler vividly described this drinking tradition in his 2001 memoir River Town, in which the American, then a school teacher in the Peace Corps in the Sichuan province, often found himself at midday banquets where red-faced men goaded each other into drinking baijiu until all were stone drunk. The odd man who tried to refuse was often ridiculed and called a woman (big insult for a man) until he relented to “only one more,” which usually led to more taunting by his cohorts and another drink. Perhaps we can learn some tactics from the former President Richard Nixon: When he visited China in 1972, he reportedly fought back during a boozy baijiu banquet; he began proposing his own toasts, although whether he himself was drinking is reportedly unclear.

Bourbon-barrel aged beer, microbreweries of America. A favorite drink among committed beer geeks is beers aged in bourbon barrels. It was Goose Island Beer Company in Chicago that first dabbled in this sub-style back in 1992, aging several barrels of imperial stout in boozy bourbon casks, retired from their previous careers in Kentucky. That beer, the Bourbon County Stout, is still popular today. It runs about 13 percent alcohol by volume, and 12 ounces contains about 400 calories—so watch out. Today, hundreds of American breweries offer barrel-aged beers, many of which taste irresistibly good, often with forward flavors of butter, toasted coconut and vanilla. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, look for Founders Brewing Company’s “Curmudgeon’s Better Half,” an old ale brewed with molasses and aged in “maple syrup bourbon barrels.” In Paso Robles, California, track down Firestone Walker’s Parabola, an imperial stout aged in a combination of wine and spirits barrels. And in Bend, Oregon, look for The Stoic, a Belgian-style quadruple soaked for a time in whiskey and wine barrels.

At Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles, CA, cellar manager Jason Pond transfers an oatmeal stout into whiskey barrels for aging. Photo by Tim Miller.

Sake, Japan. Most of us are at least faintly familiar with what we sometimes call “rice wine,” and the culture of brewing and drinking sake is beginning to spread around the world. Still, most of the world’s best sake—the really good stuff that smells like fruity perfume and goes down as softly and smoothly as milk—is most readily available in Japan. Here, more than 1,800 breweries make and sell sake, and many of them offer tours of the facilities and, of course, tasting of many sake styles. Feeling brainy? Then visit the Hakushika Memorial Sake Museum in Nishinomiya City. While exploring the sakes of Japan, keep your eyes open for a style called koshu, which is aged in steel tanks for years before bottling, by which time it has often taken on flavors of chocolate, chestnuts, earth and mushrooms. If you find yourself in Korea—the South, that is (if you go to North Korea, we definitely want to hear about it)—try makkoli, a milky white rice beverage of 6 to 8 percent alcohol by volume.

Retsina, Greece. Greece is currently undergoing a wine renaissance as its vintners and marketers push their wines into the international market. But through all the world tours and trade shows and tastings, and all the praise and cheer for the vineyards of Santorini and Rhodes and Crete, there is one humble Greek wine that got left at home: retsina. This infamous white wine aged with sappy pine resin is the one that Greek wine snobs would like to see disowned and exiled to Albania. Retsina, do doubt, has a reputation as a cheap and shoddy booze flavored like turpentine, but I’ll stick up for this underdog, because I like retsina. Many are the balmy autumn evenings in Greece that I camped on a mountain side and watched the sun sink into the gleaming Aegean, figs and feta for supper, a spicy shock of retsina to wash it down. And while the reds and whites of Greece taste roughly like the reds and whites of anywhere else in the world (yikes – the French are going to keel-haul me for saying that), retsina tastes like nothing else, a distinctly Greek specialty with a smell and flavor that quickly calls to mind the place where it’s made—that is, the dry and craggy landscape of beautiful, beautiful Greece.

Next week: More suggested drinks of the world. Ideas, anyone?

Ernst Herzfeld Papers, Series 2: Sketchbooks; Subseries 2.07: Persepolis Terrace, 1933: Sketchbook 16

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
- Title is provided by Xavier Courouble, FSg Archives cataloger, based on Herzfeld's original sketchbook title and Joseph Upton's Catalogue of the Herzfeld Archive.

"The field activities of the Persepolis Expedition were initiated by Professor Ernst Herzfeld in Spring 1931, after the French archaeological monopoly had been replaced by the new Antiquity Law, which opened Iran to archaeological field work by other nations. The expedition ended in fall 1939, after the outbreak of World War II. [...] At the end of 1934, Herzfeld was removed from his position as expedition director. He left Persepolis for the last time toward the end of November 1934 and went to London." [Elspeth R. M. Dusinberre, "Herzfeld in Persepolis", Ernst Herzfeld and the Development of Near Eastern Studies, 1900-1950. Edited by Ann Gunter and Stefan R. Hauser. Leiden: Brill, 2005. P.137 and P.161]

"Herzfeld returned to Persepolis in 1931 as field director. The project was conducted under the auspices of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, with additional financial assistance from other American individuals and institutions." [Elspeth R. M. Dusinberre, "Herzfeld in Persepolis", Ernst Herzfeld and the Development of Near Eastern Studies, 1900-1950. Edited by Ann Gunter and Stefan R. Hauser. Leiden: Brill, 2005. P.146]

Finding aid, based on Joseph M. Upton's Catalogue of the Herzfeld Archive, 1974, is available in the Archives Department and on Internet

- SK-16 is the sixteenth of a series of thirty-five sketchbooks (Skizzenbücher), in which Ernst Herzfeld recorded his observations on topography, landscape, inscriptions and reliefs, archaeological remains, architecture, artifacts and decorative motifs related to the terrace complex of Persepolis (Iran).

- Original handwritten title on cover reads: "Ernst Herzfeld; Skizzenbuch XVI: P.T. 33."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 1 and 3 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], northern wall of the terrace complex: measured details of wall construction, [7.6.1933], [see FSA A.6 05.0778; FSA A.6 05.0828]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 5 reads, "Akhur i Rustam [(Iran)]: elevation and plan of [rock-cut] tombs ([astudans], astodan), [10.6.1933]."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 7, 8, and 9 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)] and [Pasargadae (Iran)]: stone masons' marks, [see FSA A.6 05.1143; FSA A.6 05.1143b; FSA A.6 05.1181]."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 10 to 16 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)]: measurements of levels of terrace."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 17 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Apadana, west portico: elevation of columns, [see FSA A.6 04.GN.2301]."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 18 to 25 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)]: measurements section of foundation walls."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 26 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Hadish [(Palace of Xerxes)], [balcony and southern] stairway: measurements, [see FSA A.6 04.GN.1658; FSA A.6 04.GN.2335]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 27 and 28 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Hadish [(Palace of Xerxes)], main hall: column bases west and east half, [see FSA A.6 05.0881; FSA A.6 05.1471]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 29 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Hadish [(Palace of Xerxes)]: measurements of doorways."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 30 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [north of] Hadish [(Palace of Xerxes)], [small stairway]: measurements section of plan."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 31 and 32 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Hadish [(Palace of Xerxes)], [eastern facade of the palace]: measurements of wall foundation, [see FSA A.6 05.1471]."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 33 to 36 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Hadish [(Palace of Xerxes)], [eastern stairway and portico]: area measurements, [see FSA A.6 05.1471]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 37 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Hadish [(Palace of Xerxes)], [eastern stairway]: [ground] plan, [see FSA A.6 05.0884]."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 38 and 39 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Tripylon [(Council Hall)], [main stairway and southern portico]: [floor plan and column bases] with measurements, [see FSA A.6 05.0842]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 40 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Hadish (Palace of Xerxes), eastern stairway]: [floor plan], [see FSA A.6 05.1471]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 41 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Hadish (Palace of Xerxes), eastern stairway]: measurements underground canal, [see FSA A.6 05.1471]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 42 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], 100-column hall [(Throne Hall)]: [doors and niches] measurements."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 43 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Tripylon [(Council Hall)]: measurements of [decorative socket ring of doorways in main hall], [see FSA A.6 05.0842]."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 44 to 45 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Tripylon [(Council Hall)]: measurements of [eastern doorway of main hall], [see FSA A.6 05.0842]."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 46 to 47 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Tripylon [(Council Hall)]: measurements of [eastern and western rooms and passages], [see FSA A.6 05.0842]."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 48 and 49 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Harem [of Xerxes], [main wing as first built by] Darius]: doorways, windows, and niches."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 50 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Tripylon [(Council Hall)], vestibule [(southern portico)]: [plan of the wall foundations]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 51 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Tripylon [(Council Hall)]: plan of column bases [located in main hall and southern portico]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 52 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], 100-column hall [(Throne Hall)]: plan of two column bases, [see FSA A.6 05.0842]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 53 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)]: measurements by 100-column hall [(Throne Hall)]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 54 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [Tripylon (Council Hall)], west rooms and passages]: [water conduits and drains], [see FSA A.6 05.0842]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 55 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], measurements underground canal (?)."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 90 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], [great stairway to the terrace complex]: measurements of elevation, [see FSA A.6 05.0853; FSA A.6 05.0856]."

- In Finding Aid, caption for pg. 92 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], outline panorama of mountains from terrace."

- In Finding Aid, captions for pg. 94 to 105 reads, "Persepolis [(Iran)], Main Gate [(Gate of All Lands)]: measured drawings of details of bulls and capitals, [see FSA A.6 04.GN.1582]."

Helsinki's New Subterranean Art Museum Opens Its Doors

Smithsonian Magazine

Five years before Finland’s capital city was set to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, local authorities granted three young architects permission to design one of the many temporary structures that would welcome visitors to the Games. The result was a functionalist shopping center featuring offices, restaurants and even a movie theater. Encased in seemingly endless window panels, the building soon earned the title of Lasipalatsi, or the “Glass Palace.”

On September 1, 1939, German forces invaded Poland, beginning World War II and, albeit unwittingly, rescuing Lasipalatsi from demolition. As Michael Hunt writes for Artnet News, the Olympics’ wartime hiatus, as well as post-war financial difficulties, prevented Finnish officials from dismantling the Glass Palace and replacing it with a new structure designed specifically for the rescheduled 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Lasipalatsi endured, eventually becoming a popular local landmark. By the 1980s, however, the structure had become an increasingly unwelcome strain on the city’s finances.

Today, Lasipalatsi is beloved (and profitable) once more, thanks in large part to art patron and newspaper publisher Amos Anderson, whose $60 million Amos Rex Museum—a futuristic art bunker nestled beneath the Glass Palace—opened to the public this week.

The Amos Rex's underground galleries span an impressive 23,350 square feet. (Photo courtesy of Tuomas Uusheimo)

The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright reports that the new museum was designed by Helsinki architecture firm JKMM. Sprawling underground galleries stretch across 23,350 square feet, while domed skylights covered in simple geometric patterns dot the landscape and pour light down to the exhibition spaces below.

The bulk of the museum rests below a square beside Lasipalatsi. Once, the square housed Helsinki’s main bus station, Giovanna Dunmall writes for Wallpaper*, but today, all traces of this metropolitan terminal have vanished, replaced by the sweeping curvature of the Amos Rex’s mountainous skylights.

“The biggest challenge was how to make [the museum] visible in the cityscape,” Asmo Jaaksi, a founding partner at JKMM, tells Architectural Digest’s Nadja Sayej. “We wanted to have the square open but still draw people from aboveground to underground, so we came up with these domed forms, which try to be unto the building but not obtrusive.”

In an interview with Wallpaper*’s Dunmall, Jaaksi adds that Lasipalatsi was “very well built” despite its anticipated status as a temporary structure. Although architects restored the Glass Palace during the new project, its eclectic charm remains. Inside, salmon-colored columns are juxtaposed with glass light fixtures jutting out from red and blue ceilings, Wainwright notes; outside, Lasipalatsi’s one-time chimney stands tall amidst the clustered skylights, looking more like a lighthouse than a rudimentary ventilation system.

One of Lasipalatsi’s most notable features, the Bio Rex movie theater, closed a decade ago but has been revived in splendid fashion. Its 590 seats are covered in vivid red upholstery, while its circular ceiling lights hover above the auditorium as if they are UFOs, emitting a steady glow to guide viewers across the space. In addition to hosting weekend screenings of art-house and alternative films, Artnet News’ Hunt writes, the theater serves as the Amos Rex’s entrance, providing passage to the galleries below.

The Amos Rex derives its name from the Bio Rex movie theater, a renovated space initially constructed as part of the Lasipalatsi. (Photo courtesy of Tuomas Uusheimo)

The museum draws on foundations left by Amos Anderson, an art lover whose collection of 19th- and 20th-century Finnish art forms the bulk of the institution’s permanent collection. Prior to construction of the new space, the Amos Rex—then called the Amos Anderson Art Museum—operated out of its patron’s former home. By the 2010s, however, the museum was beginning to outgrow the neoclassical house. Acquiring the Lasipalatsi and transforming its surrounding grounds into an innovative 21st-century structure offered the ideal solution for both institutions’ organizational woes.

Ironically, Amos Rex’s inaugural exhibition makes little use of the gaping skylights overlooking its galleries. Instead, curators have opted to highlight the subterranean nature of the museum, blocking natural light to present an immersive digital experience created by Japanese art collective teamLab. According to teamLab’s website, the show, entitled “Massless,” rejects materiality in favor of “dissolving the notion of mass” and creating an otherworldly environment.

“Massless,” which runs through January 6, 2019, is accompanied by a selection of post-impressionist art collected by Finnish architect, essayist and art critic Sigurd Frosterus. Future exhibitions will feature works by Amsterdam collective Studio Drift and Belgian surrealist René Magritte.

Kai Kartio, head of Amos Rex, tells Metropolis Magazine's George Kafka that the new structure is equipped to handle both large-scale installations like “Massless” and more traditional exhibitions.

“It’s not about just hanging things on the wall any more, or putting a sculpture to stand in the middle of a beautiful space,” Kartio explains. “We have no idea what kind of visual work we are going to be surrounded by in 20 or 30 years’ time. So we wanted a space that would be as open as possible, a space that would put as few limits on what one is able to install there as possible."

The Life and Times of a Maine Island

Smithsonian Magazine

An island is a special place, often invested by both its residents and outside observers with an identity, a life and a personality. People talk and whisper, defend and attack, brag and condemn an island as if the landmass were a friend, family member or nemesis.

I don't know why islands inspire such personification or generate such strong opinions. Some people, including friends and relatives of mine, have stepped off the shores of Long Island and never again returned. Others leave for several years before coming back. And still others leave, but no matter how young they were when they sailed, they still consider it "down home."

For me, even more than an island or a hometown, Long Island is a family and a heritage. I was born an eighth-generation islander. I am unapologetically proud to say my family built the island community and has helped sustain it for going on 200 years.

The family flourished and failed and feuded on the shores of Long Island. They were keen business operators, tireless workers, layabouts, bandits, alcoholics, church workers, community leaders, detached, mean, congenial and fun-loving along the banks of a harbor that bears the family name and on hillsides that contain the bodies of their forebears.

It is a heritage that to people from other states sometimes inspires a certain amount of intrigue, bewilderment and snobbery. The myths, both positive and negative, about islands—and Maine itself, for that matter—are legion. Residents of both are alternately portrayed as crusty fisherman, sturdy woodsmen, wizened sages or drunken, backward hicks.

Certainly, some spiritual justification exists for all this. An island does seem to possess, and can potentially lose, a unique life force. Some 300 year-round Maine island communities, although many consisted of no more than a few families, have died over the past century or so. Yet, more than 250 years after it first appeared on nautical charts and nearly two centuries after settlers built the first log cabins, Long Island survives. Out "amid the ocean's roar," as one writer put it, Long Island is one of only 15 Maine islands that still support a year-round community. And it is one of the smallest and most remote.

The island itself lies in Blue Hill Bay roughly eight miles southwest of Mount Desert Island, but a world away from the tourist-driven economy of Bar Harbor and the posh estates of Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor.

The working-class village surrounding Bass Harbor is the closest mainland port and the one most frequently used by Long Islanders. On the run from Bass Harbor to Long Island, three main islands are clustered in the first four miles: Great Gott Island, Placentia Island and Black Island. All three once supported year-round communities, but now Great Gott has summer residents only, Black has one house and Placentia is abandoned.

Because of its spot along the outermost line of Maine islands, Long Island was usually called Outer Long Island and sometimes Lunt's Long Island in the 1800s to distinguish it from a similarly named island closer to Blue Hill. Starting in the 1890s, the village on the island became known as Frenchboro, named after a Tremont lawyer who helped establish the island's first post office.

The community of about 70 year-round residents sits on or near the sloping banks of Lunt Harbor, a long horseshoe-shaped inlet that provides protection from all weather but a northeast wind. The sheltered and accessible harbor is one reason why Long Island has survived while other island communities have died.

Lunt Harbor opens toward Mount Desert Island with the Mount Desert hills looming ghostlike on the horizon. On summer nights, you can sit on a wharf and watch headlights from cars full of tourists as they climb to the peak of Cadillac Mountain, high above Acadia National Park.

The banks make sharply away from Lunt Harbor, providing a perch for mostly modest homes to sit in quiet observance of the daily goings and comings.

Image by Dean Lawrence Lunt. Lobster boats (original image)

Image by Dean Lawrence Lunt. Eastern Beach on Frenchboro, Long Island (original image)

The island has just over one mile of paved road that starts at the ferry pier and runs around the cove to Lunt & Lunt Lobster Co., the island's only full-time business. Along the way, the road passes the Frenchboro Post Office, the Frenchboro Historical Society, Becky's Boutique, the Long Island Congregational Church and the Frenchboro Elementary School. The church and school were built in 1890 and 1907 respectively. There is no general store.

Leaving the harbor, paths and dirt roads wind through sometimes-pristine spruce forests, past bogs, lichen-covered ledges and small mossy patches where evergreen branches have given way to occasional glimpses of sunlight. There is little warning before these paths empty onto the island's granite shores, and suddenly the confining, sometimes claustrophobic woods give way to the mighty Atlantic.

The main trails are actually old logging roads. These dirt roads run to Eastern Beach, the Beaver Pond, Southern Cove and partway to Richs Head, the island's most distinguishing geographic feature and its easternmost point. The roundish Head, connected to the main island by a narrow neck of rocks, is exposed to the open sea.

Settled by William Rich and his family in the 1820s, Richs Head hosted the island's only other village for almost 80 years. It was abandoned by the turn of the century. Only the slight depressions of hand-dug cellars near former farmland suggest that three generations of pioneers lived, worked and raised families there.

I find it strangely sad to read about the historic deaths of the once common island communities, killed by progress and a changing way of life, during the 19th and early 20th century. Many have vanished without a trace. Some days, as I stand in my father's lobster boat and sail past the now deserted Placentia and Black Islands and even the summer colony of Great Gott Island in Blue Hill Bay, I am enveloped by a sense of melancholy.

On Black, I envision the railways that once carried granite from quarries to waiting vessels. I imagine old man Benjamin Dawes, an island pioneer in the early 1800s, ambling across the shore to his fishing boat. Or my great great great grandmother, Lydia Dawes, building castles as a child on the sandy beach along Black Island pool. Knowing a community once existed makes the island seem even older and more lifeless—like the once-bustling house on the corner that stands silent and empty, save for drawn curtains and dusty dishes stacked in cobwebbed cupboards. You just know that life will never return.

I no longer live in Frenchboro; college, work and life have carried me across New England and New York to explore other places for awhile. This exploration has been fun and enlightening and no doubt provided some clarity to island life, something to which I someday will return. Still, for nearly 23 years Long Island fit me like a second skin. I knew its landscape by touch, smell and intuition. From the well-trodden woods behind my house to the deer paths that wound through huckleberry bushes to the Salt Ponds to the tumbled beach rocks of Big Beach, I knew the land. I knew the smell of moss, the hidden brooks, the cracked ledges, the shoreline and the unique trees. I was baptized in the harborside church, educated in the one-room school, consumed by daydreams on Lookout Point and engaged on the sloping granite of Gooseberry Point.

For two months in July and August, Lunt Harbor is filled with yachts, their passengers taking advantage of the relatively easy and scenic walking trails. Or they might just sit and soak in the nighttime quiet broken only by the lapping of water against hull or the occasional clanging of Harbor Island bell.

On such crisp island evenings, which require sweatshirts even in August, you can look up into the clear night sky, and see more stars than you ever knew existed. In fact, they seem so numerous and hang so close it seems you can almost reach out and touch Heaven itself.

This is an adaptation from chapter one, "Long Island Maine," of the book, Hauling by Hand: The Life and Times of a Maine Island by Dean Lawrence Lunt (paperback), Islandport Press, 2007.

Oral history interview with David Ellsworth, 2007 July 16

Archives of American Art
Sound recording: 5 sound files (2 hr., 41 min.) : digital, wav

An interview of David Ellsworth conducted 2007 July 16, by Josephine Shea, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Ellsworth's home, in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

Ellsworth speaks of living and growing up in Iowa for the first fourteen years of his life; moving to Boulder, Colorado when his father became the director of libraries; being the youngest of two boys; his parents meeting at Oberlin College; his early interest and skill in leatherwork and woodwork as a child; spending time with the family at their cabin up in the mountains in Colorado; his experiences with music, vocals, and woodshop in junior high; attending a preparatory high school that had a very strong art program; singing in the Army for the Army Air Defense Command; traveling around with the band; being sent to the headquarters of United States Army of Europe in Heidelberg as a speed typist; studying and learning German while abroad; getting admitted into the architecture department at Washington University in St. Louis; flunking out after three semesters; going to New York City to follow a love interest as well as to study art; attending The New School for Social Research; moving back to the Midwest due of the heavy toll of city life; enrolling in the sculpture department at the University of Colorado and receiving both a bachelor of fine arts and a master of fine arts; his first independent show at Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado; working as a designer for a stainless steel food services equipment company called Green Brothers; working at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, Colorado; opening up a private studio in Boulder; partaking in various craft shows; working with the Belles Artes Gallery in New York City and Santa Fe, the Del Mano Gallery in Los Angeles, The Hand and the Spirit Gallery in Scottsdale which became Materia Gallery, the Gargoyle Gallery in Aspen; and the Cooper-Lynn Gallery in New York City; working as a teacher at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg; his experiences working with resin; his past experiences working with various kinds of wood; his past divorce; the influence of Native American and Southwest architecture and landscape on his work; the lack of reviews on woodturners and woodturning exhibitions; the difficulty of writing about craft art because of the lack of language; turning down commission work because of the limitations it imposes on the artist or creator; the direction in which he believes the craft of woodturning is going; woodturning as predominantly a hobby for retirees seeking to satisfy a need for creative energy; woodturning as a male-dominated craft; the surprisingly large number of well-known men in the fiber field today; designing and making his own line of tools; creating tutorial videos; holding woodturning classes at his home studio; his working process and how it has changed over time; how he and his wife Wendy ended up in Quakertown, Pennsylvania; and how he came up with his various series and how each developed. Ellsworth also recalls Ed Moulthroup, Melvin and Mark Lindquist, JoAnn Rapp; Steven Hogbin, Lois Moran, James Prestini, Irving Lipton, Albert LeCoff, Rick Mastelli, Clay Foster, Michelle Holzapfel, Mark Sfirri, Virginia Dodson, Betty Scarpino, Bonnie Klein, Arthur and Jane Mason, Fleur and Charlie Bressler, Giles Gibson, and others.
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