The Smithsonian recently made a small portion of its collection available through its new X3D Explorer platform. In a strange invocation of the digital haptic, the organization describes this new form of encounter as “the end of ‘do not touch’.”
You can touch…but you just can’t feel.
Taxidermist at Work on the Roosevelt Safari Specimens (1911, Smithsonian Institute Archives)
Posting has been slow and infrequent these last couple of weeks, mostly because I am lucky to be on research leave this semester and I have been trying to focus my writing energies elsewhere. At the moment, I am in the middle of revising a chapter that examines the intersection between ethnographic writing and cinema. It begins with the following excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt:
I almost always had some volume with me, either in my saddle pocket or in the cartridge-bag which one of my gun bearers carried to hold odds and ends. Often, my reading would be done while resting under a tree at noon, perhaps beside the carcass of a beast I killed, or else waiting for camp to be pitched; and in either case it might be impossible to get water for washings. In consequence the books were stained with blood, sweat, gun oil, dust, and ashes; ordinary bindings either vanished or became loathsome, whereas pigskin merely grew to look as a well-used saddle looks.”