This month at the AS220 Print Lottery gallery, I curated a small selection of field guides and similar books as part of a pop-up reading room for an afternoon, and spent the open hours performing an extended ambient piece on the theme of “Shadow Field Guides.” I have been thinking about the idea of curated-library-as-installation for a while and this is its first iteration. The books included regional nature guides, zines on herbalism in the city, more abstract field guides to things invisible and fantastical, and several naturalist guidebook oddities, heavily edited by myself including field reports of UFO sightings in New England. The final component was a set of instructions and small tokens to create “nodes” in a citywide altar made to stay unseen and be forgotten.
At the third annual Hacking Heritage Unconference (May 12 2018), I invited a discussion to think of how cultural heritage workers can work more closely with experiential learning and tacit knowledge within natural environments. Juliane Schlag from the John Carter Brown Library introduced to me concepts of ethnobotany and the "shadow woodland," which both attempt to explain the relationship between humans and plants in shaping/remembering cultures and identities. We talked about how interpretive signs in parks & woodlands have the power to connect viewers to their surroundings, but also dislodge them; how the feeling of a particular space might relate to an inaccessible history and folklore; and participants shared examples of shadow woodlands in their own lives and careers. I'm still at an early point in exploring these concepts (specifically, the stage of identifying and acknowledging them in other peoples' experiences; coming up with questions about what to do with these ideas). But, I will have a comic centered on thees woods soon, and hope to continue conversations with historians/artists/scientists and see what comes out of it.