A dead whale being cleaned by whalers

So You Plan to Teach Moby Dick

The study of Melville’s novel is enhanced by contextualizing it with primary and secondary sources related to the American sperm whaling industry.
Marie Antoinette by Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun

The Drama of Point d’Alençon Needle Lace

In its heyday, lace was beautiful, expensive, and handmade. Naturally, lace smuggling became the stuff of legend.
Soap Bubbles by Jean Simeon Chardin, ca.1733

The Soap Bubble Trope

Throughout the history of philosophy, literature, art, and science, people have been fascinated with the shimmering surfaces of soap bubbles.
Tapestry of a unicorn hunt

The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries Depict a “Virgin-Capture Legend”

They’re big in elementary school, but unicorn tableaux also have a complex iconographic history that combines religious and secular myths.
A red popsicle beginning to melt

The Buggy Truth about Natural Red Dye

The slightly disgusting secret ingredient that has historically made food dye, lipstick, and even the cloaks of Roman Catholic cardinals so vibrant.
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.
Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Willem van der Meer by Michiel van Mierevelt

Public Dissection Was a Gruesome Spectacle

Renaissance-era anatomists taught people to “knowe thyself” by reading the books of bodies.
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.
Fireworks Brooklyn Bridge

When Fireworks Told Stories

In Europe between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, fireworks displays were performances that told a story or symbolized real-world battles.
Viking sword runes

The Secrets of Viking Sword Making

New research scans three Viking swords and finds that, while well-made, they were not strong enough to withstand a fight.