Historical Places Site of the Week World History

Site of the Week: Atlas Obscura, a compendium of curiousities from around the globe

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History Travel Site of the Week

It’s a well-worn, but absolutely true, travelling cliche that the best way to get to know a place is to get lost in it. The aim of most travel sites on the internet is to enable you to plan your trips better, separating the wheat from the chaff and ensuring that not a second is wasted. Several Nazi Party rallies were less well planned than your average TripAdvisor aficionado’s holiday. Atlas Obscura is different. It’s a worldwide database of interesting but obscure places, which anyone can join and contribute to. Using it, you feel like an armchair explorer, unearthing those serendipitous finds that make getting lost so much fun, and discovering great places you might otherwise never have known about. ivermectin age

Example: I recently visited Salzburg for the second time. It’s a smallish city, I’ve read a few guide books, and I was accompanied by Julie, a seasoned visitor to Sazlburg, so I smugly thought I had a pretty good handle on most of what’s worth seeing there. Wrong. A few minutes on this site wiped the smile off my face, revealing the existence of things I must have literally come within metres of but remained utterly oblivious to. There’s the Dom Museum inside the stridently baroque Cathedral, which houses the restored Cabinet of Curiousities of the distinctly worldly Archbishop Wolf Dietrich ( who served from 1587 to 1612). There’s the magical water-powered mechanical theatre at Schloss Hellbrunn (which I had visited, but in winter when the theatre and the palace’s famous playing fountains are in hibernation). And, most intriguingly, there’s the skull in the University Mozarteum, said to have been lifted from the grave Mozart shared with 5 or 6 others, and claimed by some to be the bonce of the great composer himself. DNA tests have proved frustratingly inconclusive, but the skull bears the marks of a blow to the head sustained about a year before its owner shuffled off, which may explain the persistent headaches that plagued Mozart in the last year of his life. chicken lice ivermectin

The real joy of Atlas Obscura lies in the fact it’s not just a travel guide, but a compendium of places with stories to tell. Mercifully, the descriptions are free from irritating, overwrought, self-congratulating traveller’s tales, opting instead for good solid research and revealing explanation (as you might expect from a site co-founded by the author of the blinking marvellous Curious Expeditions blog). Typical of this is the page on the Broad Street Cholera Pump, revealing how an innocuous looking water pump on a London street marks the spot where 500 people died in a single outbreak of cholera in 1854, prompting Dr John Snow to discover the link between the disease and London’s foul drinking water.

Atlas Obscura is a highly diverting read now, and I for one hope it continues to grow with input from the community, because this idea has the potential to become very exciting indeed. ivermectin for mange dogs

The image used to illustrate this article is from Atlas Obscura’s page on the Globe Museum in Vienna. Now that sounds like a day out, how did I miss that? O why was I so blind? Curse my blinkers!

20th Century Biography Site of the Week

Site of the Week: Oscar Kirk’s Diary

London's docks

Oscar Kirk was born and raised in Poplar, East London, close to the substantial complex known as the West and East India Docks. A few days before the end of the First World War, Oscar, then just 14, got a job at the docks, and started to write a diary of his everyday experiences.

His entries from the first half of 1919 survive, and the Museum of London Docklands has started publishing them daily on this web site. The diary is remarkable for its detailed record of seemingly ordinary events, from the purchase of a paintbrush to watching a diver plunge into a drydock to retrieve a spade. A typical entry from Friday 3rd January reads,

Pay day. 17/- . 2pm
I bought 3 comics and a maxim-gun. “Chuckles, Merry & Bright, and The Jester.
Had some fried potatoes for my supper.
Mother and Marjorie went to the Hippodrome to see “Smiles*”.
I bought some boot-polish.
Weather: Wind SW. Fresh at times. Raining. Late Mild.

It’s so minimal and mundane it’s almost poetic, but it’s quickly becoming quietly gripping. Already poignant themes are starting to suggest themselves, especially in the contrast between the regulated working life of Oscar (who by today’s standards is still a child) and the world of adventure he seems to dream of. He records the death of Captain Leefe Robinson, the first war pilot to shoot down a zeppelin, and the reading list he included with the diary includes such exotic titles as The Elixir of Life, To Arms!, and Under Sealed Orders. Somehow, you can’t help but wonder if a part of Oscar might feel he missed out on the derring-do of the war. It’s all speculation, of course, as I’m sure it will remain. I don’t see Oscar getting all One Tree Hill on us any time soon, but this, I think, will be the fun of it. Over the coming months I’m looking forward to trying to piece a larger picture together from these bare fragments.

Congratlulations should go to the Museum of London Docklands for a refreshing project that sets an example for how museums can use technology to bring their archives to a wider audience, without feeling gimmicky. You can also keep up with Oscar’s entries on twitter, though the tweets reduce his spare writing even further. The effect of reading it in twitter form is like buying a mobile phone for an elderly relative, who despite having hated the things all their lives suddenly, through a mixture of gratitude and loneliness, begins to use it obsessively, bombarding you by text with every detail of their day-to-day lives, necessarily abbreviated by their arthritic difficulties with working the keypad.