Trash anthropology in NYC

Harpers june 22 1895For years, Robin Nagle was anthropologist-in-residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. She's just published a book about trash and how we deal with it, or don't. It's titled Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, and Collector's Weekly interviewed her about it.
Ows 13639680373191 (The department) was created as the Department of Street Cleaning in 1881, and renamed the Department of Sanitation in 1929. But it was actually made effective for the first time in 1895, in that the people who worked for the department actually collected garbage and swept the streets.

In its early days, the department didn’t really function at all. There are some photographs taken for Harper’s Weekly (above), before and after photos of street corners in New York in 1893 and then in 1895. And the before pictures are pretty astonishing, people were literally shin-high or knee-high in this muck that was a combination of street gunk, horse urine and manure, dead animals, food waste, and furniture crap.

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City (Amazon)

"A Filthy History: When New Yorkers Lived Knee-Deep in Trash" (Collector's Weekly)

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  1. There was a BBC documentary on this topic a while ago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010mw7x
    For the time being at least, it’s on YouTube. It’s worth watching.

  2. Used in Boing article referring too 591/2 something street. 

    Toronto’s west side is cleaner now private contractor pick up is used for municipal waste. The city workers were or are such lazy f@#$% and leave a trail of destruction behind them with tossed cans and garbage on street.

    Rob Ford hit the nail square on this call.

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