By day, Scott Reinhard designs graphics for The New York Times. Recently, he created a United States map detailing where city-dwellers fled during the pandemic and another showing how the Pantanal wetland in Brazil has transformed into a massive inferno. Incorporating an ever-growing swath of data, his daily tasks are connected to the fluctuations of news cycles.
But in his off-hours, the Brooklyn-based designer takes a broader look at the state of the nation. He merges vintage maps and contemporary elevation data, creating stunning digital works that flatten the differences of time and space into hybrid objects. While his graphics for The Times are rooted in the ever-changing present, his personal work is nestled within historical contexts.
Reinhard’s interest in data and map-generation grew while he was pursuing a master’s degree in graphic design at North Carolina State University, particularly during an introductory course centered around geographic information systems. “I basically became aware of all these cartography tools that I had no idea about. Because I wasn’t coming from that background, I was free to play around… and approach visualizing geographic data in new and interesting ways,” he says.
That experimental period spurred Reinhard’s ideas of fusing historical maps and contemporary land elevations, and he began exploring filtering, a cartographic method that calculates a theoretical sun and provides data about corresponding landscapes. “It’s pretty crude, but it really fascinated me that from a flat, black-and-white image, which is basically what elevation data looks like, you could interpolate this scene,” he shares, noting that he began to work with 3-D renderings around the same time. “That data that’s stored in a paper map can still be activated.”
Since 2019, Reinhard has refined his focus and shifted to larger series. “I’m still interested in these USGS (United States Geological Survey) maps as graphic objects and as really beautiful works of graphic design. What I’ve really been enjoying is to build these out,” he says. The more comprehensive collections have included studies of Alaskan maps from the 1950s, one series focused on the Oregon coast, and another considering south-central Indiana where he was raised.
A macro-view captures the intricacies and histories etched into the landscape of a region, showcasing glacial formations, seismic activity, and how a mountain range emerged during a period of years. “I realized once I started visualizing the landscape that, on a day-to-day standpoint when you look around you, you see elevation changes, but you don’t really see patterns. We’re just a little too small,” he says. Because USGS maps utilize coordinates, they also circumvent more political orientations found in documents outlining territories or other cordoned-off areas, offering an opportunity to correct false narratives that have been perpetuated by cartographic objects in the past. The historical maps hold additional information on trends and periods in design, which manifest in aesthetic choices like style and color.
Reinhard currently is working his way through producing a collection of USGS-recommended maps from the 1950s, a novel project that’s rooted in exploration and curiosity. “All maps are exaggerations, to some extent,” he says. “You can push and pull what the map says and what the map tells you.” Explore Reinhard’s extensive collection of digital works on Instagram and his site, where he also sells an array of prints.
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Dive into Van Gogh Worldwide, a Digital Archive of More Than 1,000 Works by the Renowned Dutch Artist
A point of levity during the temporary shutdowns of museums and cultural institutions during the last few months has been the plethora of digital archives making artworks and historical objects available for perusing from the comfort and safety of our couches. A recent addition is Van Gogh Worldwide, a massive collection of the post-impressionist artist’s paintings, sketches, and drawings.
From landscapes to self-portraits to classic still lifes, the archive boasts more than 1,000 artworks, which are sorted by medium, period, and participating institution—those include the Van Gogh Museum, Kröller-Müller Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands Institute for Art History, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Each digital piece is supported by details about the work, any restorations, and additional images.
In his short lifetime that spanned just 37 years, the prolific Dutch artist created thousands of works, many of which he finished in his final months. His thick brushstrokes are widely recognized today, particularly in masterpieces like “The Starry Night,” although his sketches, drawings, and prints offer a nuanced look at his entire oeuvre. (via My Modern Met)
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In the small city of Muncie, Indiana stands a three-story house with white columns lining the front stoop. Now unassuming, the brick structure formerly featured a sign at its entrance reading “WIPB TV,” denoting the camera crew inside recording beloved icon Bob Ross, who filmed more than 400 episodes of The Joy of Painting in the space from 1983 to 1994. Today, the house has been transformed to honor the legacy of the PBS artist, whose joyful manner and positivity inspired his devoted fans for more than a decade.
Formally called the Bob Ross Experience, the $1.2 million permanent exhibit and masterclass series pays homage to the painter by recreating the set where his soothing voice echoed instructions on blending pinks and blues for a sky or adding highlights. A rotating selection of his original paintings, like “Gray Mountain” and “Sunset Aglow,” line the home, which also features a 1980s-style living room complete with a plaid lounger. His personal items, including keys and hair pick, are on display, along with memorabilia celebrating Ross. Other than the artist’s palette knife, easel, and brushes, many of the artifacts are free to touch.
Opened in October, the museum is housed at the Lucius L. Ball House on the Minnetrista campus, a year-round gathering place with historic buildings, children’s entertainment, and workshops. About a half-mile up the street, the interactive exhibit continues in a building where “Certified Ross Instructors” teach masterclasses a few times each month. Participants are encouraged to embrace “happy little accidents,” just as Ross advocated in his episodes—many of which are available to watch on YouTube—as they paint serene landscapes, sunsets, and wildlife.
In the coming months, Minnetrista organizers plan to convert the upper levels of the house into gallery and studio space, according to The New York Times. To follow updates on the renovations or book your own Bob Ross Experience, visit the organization’s site.
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Watch the 14th-Century Construction Process of Prague's Charles Bridge Unfold in a Meticulous Animation
Up until the mid-19th century, the only way to cross the Vltava River in Prague was to head over the gothic stone arches of the Charles Bridge. The project of King Charles IV, construction of the now iconic structure began in 1357 after a flood damaged the existing walkway. A short animation by Engineering and Architecture peers back into history to chronicle the centuries-old building process as it shows wooden trusses framing the structure and bricks seemingly sprinkling into place. While the video collapses decades of work into less than a minute, the Charles Bridge wasn’t complete until the early 15th century.
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Situated in a mountainous region of the Gifu Prefecture is a small village of Gassho-style homes, uniquely Japanese structures with thatched roofs that are built to withstand heavy snowfall. Dating back to the 11th century, the historic community of Shirakawa-go was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. While the designation draws tourists each year who are keen on studying the architecture and local history as they pass through the village, an unusual attraction draws inordinate crowds to the region.
Simply called the Water Hose Festival, the biannual event involves testing the site’s ability to respond to fire. The flammable and historic nature of the structures spurred caretakers to install massive sprinklers and hoses to prevent extensive damage. Each year in December and May, they test the lines and douse the homes, according to the video above that shows a similar process occurring at a site in Miyama. The systems are concealed inside structures that mimic the original architecture, and the new buildings open from the center allowing water to erupt into the air, a spectacular and almost comical process. (via Spoon & Tamago)
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Watch the Birdie: A Restored Brass Gadget Dating Back 140 Years Reveals a Historic Photography Trick
Prior to asking subjects to grin and “say cheese,” photographers would entreat those awaiting a portrait to “watch the birdie.” Now generally out of use, the phrase dates back to 1879 and references a technique to capture both kids’ and adults’ attention at just the right moment: Photographers would attach a little brass bird to the top of their lens—the 1950s film Watch the Birdie erroneously positions a songbird on the main character’s hat rather than his camera—and squeeze a pneumatic bulb, making the creature chirp and flap its wings as they snapped an image.
Austria-based Markus Hofstätter recently restored one of the historic gadgets, a process he demonstrates in a new video. He begins by degreasing the 140-year-old pieces, 3D printing a new base, and finally attaching the water-filled device to his wet plate camera. After removing the lens cap and blowing into a tube, he reveals the bird’s whistles.
For more tutorials and explorations into historic photography techniques, check out Hofstätter’s YouTube and Instagram. You also might enjoy these similarly chirping antique boxes that feature singing bird automata. (via PetaPixel)
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.