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Family Connections : Stewart Watson creates installations that explore genealogy and family history

Stewart Watson takes the fan chart of a whole new level. She’s able to take the family tree and visualize it’s uniqueness. “So much of what we are—as a family or species—is similar,” she says, “that it is the tiny bit which makes us unique that interests me.”

Descendant Chart, 2011. Steel, paint, hardware. 144” x 276” x 110”

via Urbanite… In Descendant Chart, shown here installed at the DC Arts Center, Watson randomly slipped steel rods through painted ‘connectors’ that were attached to the wall in a specific genealogical pattern. She explains, “Through non-mechanical reproduction—I like to think of it as a bit of secret performance art—multiples are created that are similar, but never the same. This action is crucial as evidence of the human hand, and its imperfections, in my process oriented work.”

How would your family tree look like as art?

She insisted that turkey be served along side ham or tongue. She was an American writer, an influential editor and  author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.

She famously campaigned for the creation of the American holiday known as Thanksgiving, and for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument.

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)

via Four Pounds Flour

Washington Crossing the Delaware Dec 24th 1776 (1775-1890)

The genealogy and historical trend on Twitter is amazing.  There is just about every historical genre on Twitter and more every day. You have different eras and interest to choose from, like it’s it own Twitter. Twitter has helped me connect to people who are researching the same areas as me and even helped me find a few lost ancestors.

My current favorite is PatriotCast on Twitter. To sum it up from them, “PatriotCast is a historical online reenactment of the American Revolution. For eight years it will give a day by day account of the War.” PatriotCast will reenact the Revolution with multiple tweets every day between 2010 and 2017 (2010 being 1775).  Now that’s a long term project.

Getting the tweets everyday is like a news wire to the past.  It gives me a deeper appreciation and a better understanding for history.

Follow them:

Ever wondered what your families journey looked like?  Go beyond the time-lines and create a map of your families migration. With Google Maps and Bing Maps you can create a visual journey of your families genealogy.

You have to use the current map services with the understanding that maps have changed a lot in the past few hundred years. But they do offer an excellent poor man’s interactive experience without having to be a Flash designer. The different map services also offer options like adding a photo, website and notes to each pinged location. Bing has partnered with on the website and their software.

Sometimes when you start out to learn a new tool or process, you will discover more information then before. Using the maps will put your families journey into prospective and a deeper appreciation for how far they traveled for you to discover them.

The New York Public Library continues to amaze us.

The New York Times ran an article recently – Secret of the Stacks.  The library encompasses four major research libraries and 87 branches, with a total of 20 million books, 50 million cataloged items and a growing demand in this recession for loaner laptops and other free services. Only the Library of Congress and the British Library are larger. But even the Fifth Avenue landmark by itself is a marvel of big numbers. It is undergoing a $1.2 billion makeover in preparation for its 100th birthday. Built from 1899 to 1911, it cost $9 million, contains 530,000 cubic feet of white Vermont marble and 125 miles of shelving, and opened with an inventory of one million items.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library Inquiry Desk 1923

It highlights unique and unknown facts about the library:

  • Most Faithful Customer : Norbert Pearlroth, the head researcher for “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” visited the library almost daily. Although he wrote about the incredible, his own routine was anything but: He sat at the same table for 52 years, from 1923 to 1975.
  • Menu collection : The library has 40,000 restaurant menus, the world’s largest collection, dating from the 1850s to the present. It is heavily used by chefs, novelists and researchers; a few years ago, a marine biologist consulted menus from the early 1900s for a study of fish populations.
  • Curiosities : The most bizarre item, not counting those skull fragments from Percy Bysshe Shelley in Room 319, has to be Charles Dickens’s favorite letter-opener. The shaft is ivory, but the handle is the embalmed paw of his beloved cat, Bob, toenails and all.

The library has a great collection of images on Flickr and most images have no known copyright restrictions. 1,300 photographs in all and cover various events and subjects. It is part of the Commons on Flickr which is described as the world’s public photo collection. This collection is useful for research, history and browsing.  There are many of libraries and museums that are contributing to the project as well.

Rosslyn Garage

1401 Wilson Blvd., Rosslyn, VA Here is where Washington Post metro reporter Bob Woodward met with “Deep Throat” while investigating what became known as the Watergate scandal. In May 2005, former FBI deputy director W. Mark Felt admitted to being Woodward’s secret informant. Photo credit HERE IS WHERE

HERE IS WHERE is an all-volunteer initiative created by the Legacy Project to find and spotlight little known and unmarked historic sites throughout the United States.

These sites relate to events that changed the course of history and represent a wide range of individuals–from explorers, pioneers, inventors, scientists, activists, and people of faith, to artists, writers, musicians, builders, and athletes.

HERE IS WHERE is a grass roots campaign, and the Legacy Project encourages Americans across the country to seek out and recommend their own favorite spots. The larger mission of this effort is to promote the importance of preserving historic sites and to foster a passion for history itself.