Category Archives: History

Belfast, Northern Ireland

On my last day in Dublin, I took a day trip to Belfast. The city is only two or so hours away from Dublin. My tour group was very small, two couples, two single men, and the tour guide. It was an interesting experience. The day started off rainy and dreary. As the day went along, it was still dreary but the rain held off a bit and we were able to do some sightseeing.

Part of the tour was meeting someone from the north that had lived through the terrorism that gripped the North up until the peace accords in the 1990s. He took us around the parts of Northern Ireland where there was trouble all those years ago. Now there were political murals in many places. They reminded me of Greece, where I took some pictures of political murals. These murals, however, were very artistic and done very, very well.

We got to go through the wall that the British were building to section off parts of Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. This wall was continuing to be built right up until the peace accords were signed. The gates to neighborhoods would be open at a certain time one day and closed the same time the next. There never seemed to be a rhyme or reason when the gates were open–or closed for that matter. Of course, people who lived there knew their way around the wall and could get into their neighborhoods by taking side streets and going around. We stopped across a section of the wall that cut though backyards of houses; where the road was once were part of those houses’ backyards. We were given markers to write on the wall, which many others had done before us. I only wrote “Peace!’ with my initials.

We also got to see the Northern Ireland Parliament Building. Parliament has not met for at least two years in the North, which does make one wonder. It is a beautiful building up on a high hill surrounded by a high fence and with no other buildings around it. It reminded me of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. but there are a lot of buildings around.

We were given some free time to wander around downtown Belfast. One of my fellow travelers was from New Zealand, so we hung out together. We had a late lunch then walked around town. The City Hall was a magnificent building made of marble. A huge statue of Queen Victoria stood in front of it. There was also a statue to the Boer War. We peeked inside and it was well-decorated. Then there was the Titanic Memorial at the side of City Hall. It was the one built right after the disaster and it recognized the loss of life that Belfast suffered. There’s a new memorial not too far away, on the City Hall grounds, that lists all those who were lost.

I was so excited. I GOT TO GO TO THE TITANIC MUSEUM! We spent two hours in the museum. The museum is built right on the Harland and Wolff shipyards. In front of the museum, marked by poles, are places where the Olympic and the Titanic sat while being built. Unfortunately, the museum itself was a bit of a letdown. I know the story of the sinking and the structure of British society at the time of the sinking, which is what much of the museum was trying to explain. The museum was packed, though, so it is a major tourist attraction, which is good for the city.

What really did thrill me was going on board the SS Nomadic, the last White Star Line ship in existence. It was a tender that took passengers out to the Titanic and other White Star ships. The ship later was a restaurant in France when it was “rediscovered” and was bought and brought back to Belfast, where it belongs. My ticket to the museum did not cover the cost of going aboard the Nomadic (the tour company did not pay the extra), so I had to pay. It was worth it. Although everything was restored, it was nice to see the accommodations for first class and third class passengers carried over even on the tenders. I did not want to leave, I enjoyed the ship so much.

The day ended, and we went back to Dublin. I left the next day for the United States. I really enjoyed my trip to Dublin and Belfast. I’d love to go back and visit someday.

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Graffiti from the Past

When we think of graffiti, we usually think of spray painted signs, walls and doors with anything from a symbol or word, a hodgepodge of designs to a unified mural. In most cases, graffiti is considered bad, disrespectful, and ugly.

What about graffiti from 1,850 years ago?

These two profiles were etched into a column with other signs and symbols in front of the Southeast Building (built ca. 150 CE) in the agora in Athens, Greece. The profiles could have been drawn by anyone living today. However, they were not.

These copies come from an American School of Classical Studies at Athens agora excavation report. When I saw them I got chills. Who were these people? (I assume at least two, as probably the latter one was added close to the earlier profile.) Were they students at a school? (The Library of Pantainos was next door to the Southeast Building and apparently had similar graffiti on its columns.) Did these people know each other? Did they end up as artists? As philosophers? There is no way to know.

Nonetheless, these doodles are a bridge to people who lived in another time and place.


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Parthenon Marbles Coming to the Graduate Center

City College was given copies of the so-called Elgin Marbles–the Parthenon Marbles–as a gift in 1852 from Charles M. Leupp, Esq. The casts, made in the 1830s, were among the first to be sent to the United States. The casts have been in storage until recently. The sculptures are now going to be mounted in the CUNY Graduate Center Library. They will line the wall along 34th Street.

This is exciting.

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Marching for Women in Poughkeepsie

2017-01-21-006On January 21, I marched to support the rights of women in Poughkeepsie, New York. A close friend of mine braved the trip to Washington, D.C., which I did not want to try and do. So, when Tara, a friend from the Historical Society, suggested Poughkeepsie, I liked the idea. Poughkeepsie, after all, may not be a major city of the United States, but it is still a city with a statement to make. Why not help them make it?

It was cold, but not as cold as it was walking across the bridge over the Hudson. It got colder as soon as we neared the other side, and remained cold until we crossed back over. There was a lot of positive vibes from the participants, and the march was upbeat. I got a cool tee-shirt to mark the occasion.

2017-02-04-001Besides Tara, her friend Joanie came along. We took Metro-North in the wee hours of the morning and then walked over to the site of the march. There was no parking anywhere close to the sight as the lots were packed with participants, with many more looking for places to park.

The pics are of the crossing, of Tara and Joanie, and of a Christmas tree that was still decorated at this late date.


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City Museum Purchase

I went to the Museum of the City of New York a few weeks ago with a friend.

The building is beautiful. I remember that there was some talk of moving the museum down to Tweed Hall, but it did not happen. There were a lot of school kids there when we visited early in the morning right after the place opened.  I didn’t get to see the first floor, which is now the permanent exhibit on the history of the city, since this is where the kids spent all of their time. Instead, we stayed upstairs and visited the traveling exhibits. One thing that differentiates the City Museum from the rest is that there is not a lot of realia, i.e. objects, on display. Instead, what is displayed are exhibits with models and photographs. For example, the way skyscrapers are built to allow light to reach the street, which was the exhibit on zoning laws. Models, photos, and lots of text. Though I found it interesting, I really like objects, which I love to photograph.

One object that is a recent acquisition of the museum is on the first floor, and that was a deck chair reputedly from the Titanic. It was in its own display in the recent acquisitions area. It looks like its seen better days. Then again, it is well over 100 years old. Since these chairs floated in the water, people clung to them after the ship sank. However, most died not from drowning but from hypothermia, as the water was well below freezing.

Did someone try and cling to this chair, only to lose his/her life?

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Pergamum Exhibit at the Met


A bronze shield from Pontos, 185-160 BC

Though it closed at the beginning of July, I was able to see the Pergamum exhibit over the Independence Day weekend. I went on a Friday night, rightly assuming that the crowds which make the Met so hard to explore would be out of town. Most of those in the museum were the clueless tourists, most of whom got in the way, talked loudly, and flew through the exhibit probably because they had no idea what they were looking at. Fine by me.

An "old friend" from Athens

An “old friend” from Athens

The Met gathered antiquities from across the world to create the exhibition, Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World. I was surprised and pleased to see some “old friends” from the Antikytheria Shipwreck exhibit (and redux) that the National Archaeological Museum in Athens had held in 2013. I took a few pictures, but I already have photos of the pieces.

I took 184 photographs, some of which I later deleted (bad photos, duplicate photos, etc.). I just managed to get through the exhibit right before the museum closed at 9. I bought the exhibition catalog–hardback. I usually buy the paperback copy because it is cheaper (and sometimes I wait for a few months and hope that the catalog is put on clearance, which sometimes happens if any are left over), but I was told that too many people complained that the paperback copies fall apart. Now the Met only prints its catalogs in hardback.

Overall, it was a wonderful exhibit.

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Irving’s Monument, and Rip Van Winkle

(2015-04-11 003)Way back at the beginning of the 20th century, a memorial/monument to Washington Irving was planned for Broadway, at the top of Sunnyside Lane. A local committee started raising funds in 1909-1910. Famous sculptor Daniel Chester French was hired to make a bust of Irving and some images of Rip Van Winkle and King Boabdil (from The Alhambra). The Headless Horseman is Irving’s most famous character, with Rip Van Winkle running second in popularity.

French worked on the monument for the next 15 years. Over those years, the costs of the monument, in French’s hands, kept going up and up. The local committee put on many fundraisers to try and keep up with the escalating price tag. In 1925, French designed this small statue of Rip Van Winkle for fundraising purposes; each sold for $500.

Unfortunately, the statue got no further than the model stage. French created a model to work from and started making preparations to build the statue. However, the money was not raised for the statue and the idea was scrapped. Still, the sculptor had to be paid. In order to recoup some of the money, the statue committee had copies made of the model and sold it locally.

The Charles T. Newberry Estate donated this statue to the Historical Society, where it peers out from a corner in the research room.

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Filed under Art, History, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown

The Month of Valentines

(2015-08-18 031)When I lived in Pittsburgh, I used to have “I Hate Valentine’s Day” parties. And people came. Men, women, couples, singles, straight, gay, all came because we shared the same belief: the sappiness of an insipid holiday.

I’ve always believed that one should be romantic and do nice things for one’s significant other–whether married or just dating–all the time. Why would someone need a holiday to do this once a year when one does it constantly throughout the year? My philosophy.

(2015-08-18 026)While in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, I went through some things in my storage bin (something else that needs cleaned), and I came across some of the decorations I used for the parties. So, I brought them back to New York with me.

Part of my contempt for Valentine’s Day stems from misinformation.  According to Catholic Online, not much is known about Valentine and there (2015-08-18 029)are various stories told about him; he may have been two men who were merged into one saint, like Saint Nicholas. However, none of them deal with him in a romance with anyone. The story I know best is that he was imprisoned for being a Christian and he made friends with his jailer’s daughter, to whom he taught Christianity. On the day of his death (which may have been February 14, although no one seems to agree on the year), Valentine left his friend a note telling her to be faithful and to continue to believe. It was signed, “Your Valentine.”

(2015-08-18 027)So, the story was one of conversion. Other stories talk of him marrying Christian couples and even trying to convert Emperor Claudius II, which did not work. In any event, besides being the patron saint of lovers and married couples, he is also the saint of beekeepers, the engaged, young people, epilepsy, greetings, fainting, travelers and plague. Because there was so little known about Valentine, the Roman Catholic Church removed him from their General Calendar, but he’s still considered a saint.

(2015-08-18 028)More intriguing to me is the assertion, cited by Catholic Online, of two 18th century English antiquarians that Valentine’s Day was established to off-set the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, which is February 15. This makes complete sense to me.

I already did a post on Lupercalia. For that matter, I also discussed Valentine’s Day, but I fleshed it out a bit more by including Catholic Online information.

For those of you who need Valentine’s Day, enjoy. For the rest of us, it’s just another day.

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Technologically-created Art on the Moon

Charles Duke family pic on MoonAwhile ago, I posted an entry on the plaque that was left on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. It really wasn’t art per se, but it did contain a message to whoever finds it in the future.

Today I found this photograph on the Free York site. It’s of Charles Duke and his family that Duke left on the Moon in 1972 while on the Apollo 16 mission. Another photograph posted on Science Alert (which is a repost from Business Insider) is a copy of the photograph. According to the article, Duke had written on the back, “This is the family of astronaut Charlie Duke from planet Earth who landed on the moon on April 20, 1972.”

That photograph is still there on the Moon.

CharlesDuke_webNow a word about the Library of Congress classification. Photography is classed in T, for technology. This frustrates art affectionados, since art is classified in N. What they fail to understand is that the art of photography would not exist without the technology of the camera, which definitely belongs in T. Also in T, sewing, painting (as in walls, trim, etc.), and cooking–yes cooking. We tend to take cooking for granted, but it is a technology.

As Duke discusses in the article, conditions on the Moon are not favorable to preserving the photograph, and it has probably faded, but his message on the back is probably still there, which will always indicate what had been on the obverse.

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In Memoriam: Private Owens

Private Nelson Owens served in Company H, the 1st Regiment of the Missouri Volunteers during the United States Civil War. He died in the hospital on February 4, 1864.

J.T. Paine, the surgeon in charge, made a request to Charles Rockwell, the Captain of Volunteers, on February 5 for a coffin for the 4 pm funeral. I hope that Private Owens got his coffin and had a dignified burial.

I have finished unpacking the Rockwell papers at the Historical Society and am in the process of organizing the collection by topics and then chronologically.  This is a slow process. When I unpacked the files, I put them into files with months and dates, but I am finding errors. So, I have to go through each file, item by item, to ensure that it is in the correct order, and then write up the finding aid.


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