#EnvHist Worth Reading: November 2015

Scraps of notes and letters, some dating back centuries, were discovered in birds' nests. Photo: Courtesy of Audubon.org and Zvenigorod Historical and Architectural Museum

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Every month I carefully track the most popular and significant environmental history articles, videos, audio, and other items making their way through the online environmental history (#envhist) community. You can watch all of our #EnvHist Worth Reading videos right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from November 2015:

1. Russian Birds Accidentally Preserved Historic Documents in Their Nests 

This article is our most popular Facebook post to date with over 100 shares! In the post, Hannah Waters, discusses how centuries-old bird nests were recently discovered in a soon-to-be renovated church in in Zvenigorod, Russia. These nests are especially important because they are partially made of old newspapers dating back to the 1830s. Local historians and archivists are now working to sort and analyze the newfound materials.

2. Objects of Amplification: Icebergs, Northern History, and their Emerging Media Environments 

In this thought-provoking article, Rafico Ruiz discusses the concept of a “media environment” and this concepts relationship to a specific northern landscape feature: the iceberg. The media environment of the iceberg is the totality of the way in which icebergs are represented by models and imagery, such as satellite imagery. Ruiz states that “such models deploy visualization and projection in order to mobilize public opinion, further geopolitical interests, or raise funds for schemes on the borderlands of ethical and ecological responsibility.” Referring to the historical use of icebergs as sources of fresh water, Ruiz argues that in order to understand the place of icebergs in the greater discussion of resource extraction, historians must begin to look at their media environments or “how and why they are appearing on screens.”

3. History of Avalanches Subject of New Online Exhibit

This article is a introductory piece for a new online exhibit, “Land of Thundering Snow“, hosted by the Revelstoke Museum and Archives. The exhibit is dedicated the history of avalanches and it “looks at the…the earth science behind them, advances in avalanche safety and has a database of the hundreds of recorded avalanches in Canada.” Revelstoke is apropos venue for this exhibit because it is the location of the deadliest avalanche in Canadian history.

4. Calgary Researcher Scours Old Ship Logbooks for Climate Change Clues

Pairing well with November’s NiCHE New Scholars discussion on historicizing oceans, this article looks at research being conducted by Maribeth Murray of the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary. Murray is looking closely at old whaling ship logbooks for clues about historical climate change. The article states that “Murray plans to visit archives in Canada, the United States, England, Norway and Denmark, so she can troll through hundreds of linear feet of documents.”  The article looks at the methods that Murray and other researchers are using and some of the challenges that accompany the research.

5. What Became of America’s Water-Cure Towns?

This article looks at the medical-reasoning behind the rise of spa towns across the United States during the nineteenth-century. Over 2,000 spring resorts were established to cater to demands for hydropathy, which “encompassed everything from a spell in the tub to highly regimented procedures supervised by water doctors with stopwatches.” Henry Grabar writes that some of these spa resorts developed into thriving towns and cities, but many of them were hit hard by the decline hydropathy’s popularity. Grabar discusses how some of these same towns are now enjoying the profits of renewed interest in water resorts.

Remember to follow #envhist hashtag and NiCHE (@NiCHE_Canada) on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to keep up with the latest environmental history content.

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is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States, editor, project manager, and digital communications strategist. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Saskatchewan in 2019. She is an executive member, editor-in-chief, and social media editor for the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE). Additionally, she is the Managing Editor for the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. She is also a working board member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and Girls Rock Saskatoon and a Coordinating Team member of Showing Up for Racial Justice Saskatoon-Treaty Six. A passionate social justice advocate, she focuses on developing digital techniques and communications that bridge the divide between academia and the general public in order to democratize knowledge access. You can find out more about her and her freelance services at jessicamdewitt.com.

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