the art of surveillance

a bird caught by a “camera trap” on bumpkin island

In the summer of 2008 I was lucky enough to be able to collaborate on an artistic experiment on camouflage and surveillance on one of the islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. It’s hard to believe that was almost four years ago. On the principle that late is better than never, I thought I’d attempt to describe what we did and why it turned out to be such an exciting experience/experiment.

The Camoufleurs project was initially dreamed up by historian of science Hanna Rose Shell and architect Dan Hisel, who successfully proposed it to the coordinators of the Bumpkin Island Art Encampment, then in its second year. At the time, Hanna was in the process of writing what would turn out to be a fascinating book about the history of camouflage. Dan had also been studying the history of camouflage and teaching his students about its relevance to architecture. Continue reading

‘i can but offer thee a verse…’

For the moment, I offer the following literary treasure without much comment, except to say that it and its theme have been preoccupying me lately to what is probably an unhealthy extent.

“The Pensioner in Gray” was first published in the children’s magazine St. Nicholas in 1908 (Vol. 36, No. 1, Nov. 1908, p. 11) and later reprinted in Our Dumb Animals (Vol. 45, No. 9, Feb. 1913, p. 142), the magazine of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “Dumb” here meaning voiceless, of course. Its author was Marian Longfellow, cousin of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Continue reading

squirrels at the rachel carson center

For a little more than a year now, the Rachel Carson Center in Munich has been serving as an international hub for environmental history under the directorship of Christof Mauch and Helmuth Trischler. On December 15th, I’ll be speaking in the RCC’s lunchtime colloquium on a topic that has fascinated me for a while but has only just begun to shape up into an argument about the history of human-animal relations: the adaptation of the North American eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) to the urban environment. See below for the RCC’s full lunchtime colloquium schedule for December. Continue reading