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Allison C. Meier

Allison C. Meier is a Brooklyn-based writer focused on history, architecture, and visual culture. Previously, she was a staff writer at Hyperallergic and senior editor at Atlas Obscura. She moonlights as a cemetery tour guide. Contact her on Twitter @allisoncmeier.

Two Horsemen, Elgin Marbles at the British Museum

Wait, Why Are the Parthenon Marbles in London?

Lord Elgin went beyond his original mandate, amassing a vast store of treasures, one scholar notes.
A Red Cross nurse wearing a face mask, c. 1918

The 1918 Parade That Spread Death in Philadelphia

In six weeks, 12,000 were dead of influenza.
The Premature Burial by Antoine Wiertz

The Fear of Being Buried Alive (and How to Prevent It)

Pliny the Elder remarked: “Such is the condition of humanity, and so uncertain is men’s judgment, that they cannot determine even death itself.”
Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, Italy

Why Are Cities Filled with Metal Men on Horseback?

The original inspiration for the now-ubiquitous equestrian statue, a classical bronze of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, was almost melted down and lost forever.
A coffinette for the viscera of Tutankhamun

Was It Really a Mummy’s Curse?

A slew of mysterious deaths following the opening of King Tut's tomb prompted one epidemiologist to investigate.
the Peacock Room

The Controversial Backstory of London’s Most Lavish Room

James McNeill Whistler created the famous "Peacock Room" for a wealthy patron. But the patron never actually wanted it.
“Colors That Never Run,” W1, Undated.

Ed Hardy Changed Tattooing Forever

Trained as a printmaker, this artist helped change American tattooing from a fringe behavior into an art form people use to express themselves.
Paris catacombs

How the Paris Catacombs Solved a Cemetery Crisis

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Paris—the Catacombs—was started as a solution to the intrusion of death upon daily life.
The Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in St. Augustine, FL

Should Museums Display Shrunken Heads?

Tsantsas, or shrunken human heads, remind us of how museums have often been founded on a violent trade in indigenous culture.
Design 513, Damask, 1956 and Design 104, Printed Silk and Fortisan Casement [curtain fabric], 1955, by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fraught Attempt at Mass Production

The famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously loathed commercialism, and yet he (reluctantly) designed commercial homewares to be mass-produced.
Sir Charles Knowles, an officer of the Royal Navy

Colonialism Created Navy Blue

The indigo dye that created the Royal Navy's signature uniform color was only possible because of imperialism and slavery.
Photograph: Witch Bottles used for curse protection

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Witch_Bottles_Curse_Protection.jpg

Is There a Witch Bottle in Your House?

In the 16th-18th centuries, vessels filled with nails, thorns, hair, and other materials, were used as a form of ritual protection against witches.
Untitled by Ann McCoy and Untitled by Larry Bell

The Rise and Fall of Hologram Art

Major artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Louise Bourgeois have experimented with holography, but it has yet to be taken seriously as an art form.
Grave site of American botanist Asa Gray (1810-1888), in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts

When Cemeteries Became Natural Sanctuaries

In the 19th century, bucolic, park-like cemeteries started cropping up on the outskirts of American cities.
An Octagon House

A Phrenologist’s Dream of an Octagon House

Orson S. Fowler thought houses without right angles would offer a better life, but his own architectural experiments did not end well.
Berthe Morisot, “Woman at Her Toilette”

How Impressionist Berthe Morisot Painted Women’s Lives

Berthe Morisot never became as famous as her counterparts Claude Monet and Édouard Manet, but her work has an important place in art history.
Witch Marks on the wall of a cave at Creswell Crags.

Witches’ Marks Protected Spaces from Evil

Throughout history, people tried to protect spaces from evil with apotropaic marks, ritual concealments, and other charms.
Desert View Watchtower, Grand Canyon, Arizona

How Mary Colter Made the Grand Canyon an Experience

Architect Mary Colter created buildings that incorporated local materials and indigenous motifs, blending with the environment rather than dominating it.
A headstone featuring clasped hands

The Cemetery Symbol of Eternal Love

Why did Victorian-era gravestones include so many images of clasped hands?
Portrait of Demasduit over a map of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia

Who Were the Beothuk, the Lost People of Newfoundland?

The remains of two of the very last of the Beothuk are finally being repatriated to Canada. Why has it taken almost 200 years?
An aerial view of Roden Crater

A Decades-in-the-Making Artwork in a Dormant Volcano

James Turrell is building an observatory that uses the human eye instead of optical instruments. It may soon be open to the public for the first time.
In a Glasgow Cotton Mill: Minding a Pair of Fine Frames and In a Glasgow Cotton Spinning Mill: Changing the Bobbin, 1907 by Sylvia Pankhurst

This British Suffragist Used Her Art for Activism

Sylvia Pankhurst gave up painting to focus on suffrage and anti-colonialism activism, but she continued to use her design sense throughout her career.
A Pedoscope made by the Pedoscope Company

When Shoes Were Fit with X-Rays

Fluoroscopes were used in shoe stores from the mid-1920s to 1950s in North America and Europe -- even though the radiation risks of x-rays were well-known.
A plate from Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium, by Maria Sibylla Merian

The Metamorphosis of a 17th-Century Insect Artist

Maria Sibylla Merian's work in the natural sciences was overlooked for centuries. Now a rare butterfly has been named in her honor.
Cyclorama in South End Boston, 1964.

Cycloramas: The Virtual Reality of the 19th Century

Immersive displays brought 19th century spectators to far-off places and distant battles. The way they portrayed history, however, was often inaccurate.