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Sunday, July 5, 2009

The elk in Times Square

Here's an interesting project trying to size up what the island of Manhattan was like when Henry Hudson encountered it 400 years ago this summer. (Via this writeup in the Times about this exhibition -- see also this slide show in The New Yorker.)

Comments (3)

It's interesting to compare the shot in the link "This exhibition" to the banner shot at the top of the page. Essentially, we are still at the edge of development, but without the visionaries that shaped an NYC, Chicago or Toronto, our city will remain a backwater.

There's a fascinating new book associated with this. I just finished reading/viewing it and it has the same sort of appeal as THE WORLD WITHOUT US:

A Natural History of New York City
by Eric W Sanderson

"On September 12, 1609, Henry Hudson first set eyes on the land that would become Manhattan. It's difficult for us to imagine what he saw, but for more than a decade, landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson has been working to do just that. Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City is the astounding result of those efforts, reconstructing, in words and images, the wild island that millions of New Yorkers now call home.

"By geographically matching an 18th-century map of Manhattan's landscape to the modern cityscape, combing through historical and archaeological records, and applying modern principles of ecology and computer modeling, Sanderson is able to re-create the forests of Times Square, the meadows of Harlem, and the wetlands of downtown. Filled with breathtaking illustrations that show what Manhattan looked like 400 years ago, Mannahatta is a groundbreaking work that gives readers not only a window into the past, but inspiration for green cities and wild places of the future."

Would love to see a similar project done for Portland. Sure, it wouldn't be as glamorous or comprehensive as the Manahatta project -- after all, NYC had a 250-year head start on Portland. But it would still be a great resource for local history buffs. And with all the un- or underemployed museum curators and Flash programmers hanging out in coffee shops around Portland right now, it could probably be done on the cheap.

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