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Allison 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.

Elizabeth Jennings Graham

The Woman Who Refused to Leave a Whites-Only Streetcar

In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings rode the streetcar of her choice, in an early civil rights protest that led to desegregating public transportation in NYC.
Nelson, New Zealand - March 05, 2012. Close-Up of Iconic Papa & Rangi Sculpture at Arts Unique, next to the enterance to the Abel Tasman National Park, Marahau, Tasman Region, New Zealand.

Reversing the Trade of Māori Tattooed Heads

Preserved heads decorated with tā moko, or facial tattoos, were sacred objects to New Zealand's Māori. Then Europeans started collecting them.
Horse skull

The Horse Skulls Hidden in the Dance Floors of Ireland

Old houses in Ireland often have horse skulls buried beneath the floors, but folklorists and archaeologists disagree on exactly why.
Susan La Flesche Picotte

The First Native American to Receive a Medical Degree

Susan LaFlesche Picotte was first Native American to be licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. She opened her own hospital, but didn't live to run it.

The Camouflage That Dazzled

During WWI, artist and British naval officer Norman Wilkinson came up with an idea so crazy it just may have worked: Dazzle Camouflage.
Charles Byrne skeleton

Will an 18th-Century Giant Finally Get a Burial at Sea?

The skeleton of Charles Byrne, the “Irish Giant," has been displayed in London's Hunterian Museum for 200 years. Byrne wanted a different resting place.

The American Art Style that Idolized the Machine

Precisionism, a modernist art style that emerged in the early 20th century, glorified the machine age, all but erasing the presence of people.
Whaling painting

Did North America’s Longest Painting Inspire Moby-Dick?

Herman Melville likely saw the panorama “Whaling Voyage,” which records the sinking of the whaler Essex, while staying in Boston in 1849.
Pasquino statue

The Talking Statues of Rome

Since the 16th century, anonymous authors have been posting provocative political messages on or near these Roman statues.
Moses Williams silhouette

The Former Slave Who Became a Master Silhouette Artist

A new exhibit of silhouette artists surfaces Moses Williams, a former slave who created thousands of beautiful works of art but never got credit for them.
Spanish mosaic depicting a lion

Why Are Medieval Lions So Bad?

The inaccuracy of medieval lions may have been a stylistic preference, particularly in a bestiary, or compendium of beasts.

Edward S. Curtis: Romance vs. Reality

In a famous 1910 photograph "In a Piegan Lodge," a small clock appears between two seated Native American men. In a later print, the clock is missing.
Henrietta Lacks portrait

Henrietta Lacks, Immortalized

Henrietta Lacks's "immortal" cell line, called "HeLa," is used in everything from cancer treatments to vaccines. A new portrait memorializes her.
Phantasmagoria

The Magic Lantern Shows that Influenced Modern Horror

Eighteenth and early nineteenth century audiences were delighted and horrified by these spectral apparitions conjured in dark rooms.
Illustration: a flower and leaf of the Franklinia alatamaha by William Bartram (1782)

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklinia#/media/File:William_Bartram01.jpg

America’s Mysterious Lost Tree

Extinct in the wild, the Franklinia tree is still cultivated in botanical gardens, private homes, parks, even cemeteries. It's also got an interesting Revolutionary-era backstory.
Zoe Crosher Palms

An Artist Memorializes the Disappearing Palm Trees of Los Angeles

Palm fronds in Southern California are falling more frequently due to age, invasive species, and fungus, Artist Zoe Crosher casts these fronds in bronze.
Thomas Cole Arcadia painting

When Landscape Painting Was Protest Art

The landscape painter Thomas Cole celebrated the American landscape, but also expressed doubts about the limits of civilization.
Walking Natan

The Art of Walking

Walking as an art has a deep history. By guiding participants, or their own bodies, on walks, artists encourage us to see the extraordinary in the mundane.
Pigeon Pete

Pigeon Whistles: From Utilitarian to Orchestral

Composition with pigeons. One flock's dynamic movement created a spatial music that was constantly crescendoing and dissipating in a long haunting chord.
Cricket cage

Keeping Crickets for Luck, Song, and Bloodsport

Design can facilitate the worst of human instincts, including forcing animals into servitude and violence. Cricket cages tell stories about how people have treated the insects throughout time.
Astrolabe

The San Zeno Astrolabe Tracked Time by the Stars

The astrolabe was a revolutionary tool for calculating celestial positions and local time. The device's design dates back to Islamic antiquity.