Monthly Archives: September 2011

Good Housekeeping: A Civil Defense Strategy.

The above propaganda film, The House in the Middle, was created in 1954 by the National Paint, Varnish, and Lacquer Association and can be found in the Pelinger Collection of the Moving Image Archive. The goal of the film was to encourage the American public to keep spotless, organized homes with lightly painted exteriors as a civilian defense tactic during the Cold War era.   The reasoning behind this, white paint repels heat and clutter, both inside and outside, will turn your house into a virtual tinder box should an atomic bomb hit your area.  During the film, an “untidy” home is compared to “spic-and-span” home in several blasts, complete with repeats and detailed comparison of how the structures held up to the searing atomic heat wave.   I’m not sure how the creators of The House in the Middle would feel watching the television show Hoarders, but their classification of messy is more than a stretch.  A newspaper in a magazine rack and some yard debris are hardly worthy of inducing a doomsday inferno.  Even if the structure of your house could withstand an atomic blast, the film never addresses how humans might react this event, like, say your flesh instantly melting off.  Perhaps the film was an attempt at soothing the American public’s missile frantic minds and providing a sense of empowerment in a helpless situation, or to simply increase house paint sales.

The House in the Middle was filmed at the famously controversial Nevada Test Site (NTS), which was the stage for America’s nuclear testing.   From 1951 to 1992, 1,021 nuclear detonations occurred on the Nevada Test Site, including 100 atmospheric tests and the remainder underground. During the Cold War, it is estimated 125,000 people were employed at the NTS.  The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has created an in-depth look of the human story behind the NTS with the Nevada Test Site Oral History Project (NTS OHP).  Interviews cover a diverse range of those involved with, or affected by, the NTS.  Over 150 interviews are all documented in transcripts available on the NTS OHP site, supported by UNLV Digital Library.  The voices of the project encompass protestors and peace groups, scientists and engineers, laborors, military, women and the NTS, Native Americans and more.   The Nevada Test Site Oral History Project is an admirable endeavor capturing personal stories from the lives touched by the Nevada Test Site.  Aside from my accolade, the NTS OHP was the winner of 2010 National Council on Public History’s Outstanding Public History Project Award.

Since this post would not be complete without some explosive photographs, the below are several images of nuclear bomb tests on the Nevada Test Site.  The captured blasts evoke awe at their power, enormity, and billowing beauty.  For a split second, we might forget they were intended for.

“Priscilla.” 24 June 1957. Nevada Test Site. Atmospheric Nuclear Testing, 37 kilotons. Courtesy of Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Bureau of Federal Facilities, obtained from: http://ndep.nv.gov/boff/

“Dog.” 1 November 1951. Nevada Test Site. Atmospheric Nuclear Testing, 21 kilotons. Courtesy of Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Bureau of Federal Facilities, obtained from: http://ndep.nv.gov/boff/

“Baneberry underground nuclear test.” 18 December 1970. Nevada Test Site. Atmospheric Nuclear Testing, 10 kilotons. Courtesy of Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Bureau of Federal Facilities, obtained from: http://ndep.nv.gov/boff/

“Stokes.” 7 August 1957. Nevada Test Site. Atmospheric Nuclear Testing, 9 kilotons. Courtesy of Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Bureau of Federal Facilities, obtained from: http://ndep.nv.gov/boff/

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Step by Step.

“Man and woman dancing a waltz.” Eadweard Muybridge. Animal locomotion: an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements. 1872-1885. Courtesy of USC Digital Library: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu

At first glance, the waltzing duo photographed in the series above makes one’s heart swoon with nostalgic notions from an embrace lingering in time.  Not to say that the photographer, Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), wasn’t a romantic chap as he was definitely a man of character, but his photographic intentions weren’t exactly to conjure tender sentiments.   Rather, his objectives were more scientific: isolate and analyze physical movement of humans and animals alike.  Not forgoing artistic expression, as science aided in the public’s acceptance of the then-provocative mostly nude photographs to later become celebrated as works of art.

“Jumping over a boys back (leapfrog).” Eadweard Muybridge. Animal locomotion: an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements. 1872-1885. Courtesy of USC Digital Library: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu

The photos shown here are all from Muybridge’s collection Animal Locomotion: an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements, created from 1872 –1885, published by the University of Pennsylvania in 1887.  Animal Locomotion consisted of 781 plates, each plate contained a series of rapid succession, still frame photos in varying angles.  Muybridge posed his models in scenarios ranging from simple to silly, and always in accordance with gender roles of the Victorian era.  Men typically exhibited their athletic prowess, from heaving large rocks to replicating field work, while women often either danced or carried out chores with nymphean grace for the camera.  Ladies handling water in a variety of ways, carrying jars, pouring on each other from buckets, or sprinkling on the ground, seemed to be a favorite aesthetic for Eadweard.

“Two women dancing a waltz.” Eadweard Muybridge. Animal locomotion: an electro-photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements. 1872-1885. Courtesy of USC Digital Library: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu

The University of Southern California Digital Library has 701 of the 781 plates from Animal Locomotion for the public to view online.  The clever folks at the USC Digital Library have included animated gifs with each plate, bringing Eadweard’s figures back to life.    Mr. Muybridge, I hope you are as tickled as I am with USC’s resuscitations.

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