Anvironment: An experimental history project

[To be expanded for a forthcoming article]

If a stable, humidity, temperature, dust, and pest controlled environment is the ideal setting for preserving historical material, could we produce the inverse environment? In other words, if late-modern history relies on a type of ecosystem for the preservation and study of historical material, could we produce the anti-ecosystem of historical maintenance?

This anvironment (parallel or anti-environment) would be a space where historical preservation was impossible but that would nonetheless be a stable integrated nature. Like a black hole in a historical universe; the eye of a historical hurricane.

So consider some type of room with incredible levels of humidity, swirling dust, and horrible heat. It would be a place that also happened to represent two of the West’s key enviro-phobias — tropiphobia and aridiphobia. This room would be an orangey green place of sweat and dirt where pieces of paper, building elements, and other artifacts don’t stand a chance of surviving.

Ultimately, such a place forces us to reflect on the stability required for history, and the environments lurking in our future.

Picture 1


  1. martin

    i think this ‘anvironment’ exists already. its called ‘Summer in New York City.’

  2. sjaw

    one of the biggest ‘threats’ to historical material is light, it can degrade and destroy in a much more effective way 😉

    add direct sunlight or greenhouse to this 🙂

  3. dlgissen

    Martin: Yes! in fact, NYC museums have been some of the most innovative in the development of preservation environments, particularly the Metropolitan.
    Sjaw: Good point; light can be destructive too, although it depends on the item being preserved (eg. marble will be ok); so yes, I’ll make sure to include a searing sun in the future of the project. Thanks, David

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