New York Public Library making it easier to See Dickens' desk, Woolf's cane, and Kerouac’s boots

NYPL's Berg Collection ranks among the greatest collections of literary ephemera and artifacts, but it's been very hard to see these items until recently. Read the rest

Metal detectorist finds a WWII anti-tank mine that requires detonation

Metal detectorist "Iron Mike" finds all sorts of interesting things, like this anti-tank mine among a treasure trove from the Eastern Front of World War II. Read the rest

Nazi cache hidden behind a bookcase

A secret passageway led to an trove of smuggled Nazi artifacts, say investigators in Argentina, and their collector is in trouble with the law.

They were put on display at the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations in Buenos Aires on Monday. Many Nazi higher-ups fled to Argentina in the waning days of the war, and investigators believe that officials close to Adolf Hitler brought the artifacts with them. Many items were accompanied by photographs, some with Hitler holding them.

"This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects," Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told The Associated Press.

The objects include a device used to measure heads. Nazis believed that one could distinguish a Jew from someone belonging to the supposed Aryan race by head measurements.

[Thanks, Matthew!]

Previously: found a locked safe hidden at the back of a closet in my new house Read the rest

Books bound in human skin getting forensic investigations

Megan Rosenbloom at Lapham's Quarterly delves into anthropodermic bibliopegy, the strange history of books bound in human skin, like this pocket book created in 1829 from murderer William Burke of the Burke and Hare murders. Read the rest

Rare Shakespeare's First Folio found in Scottish isle

A rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio turned up on a Scottish island, reports the BBC. Only 230 copies are known to exist, or thereabouts, and the last to be sold fetched £3.5m (about $5m) in 2003 and £2.8m in 2006. Countless fakes are knocking around, too.

This copy of the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623, was found at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute. Academics who authenticated the book called it a rare and significant find. ... Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University, said her first reaction on being told the stately home was claiming to have an original First Folio was: "Like hell they have." But when she inspected the three-volume book she found it was authentic.

The folio represents the first legitimate compendium of Shakespeare's work; we wouldn't have much of Macbeth were it not for its publication, among many other works preserved in it. Read the rest

14 "lost" films still to be found

The discovery of a 16mm print of Pages of Death means that Gambit Magazine's 15 lost films is now merely 14 lost films. But that leaves plenty of missing classics left to discover, including Batman fights Dracula and, of course, London After Midnight.

This 1927 silent horror film was based on the short story “The Hypnotist” by Tod Browning who also happened to direct this film adaptation. The film is noted for starring Lon Chaney with the makeup used for his vampire character being done by himself. The film was a success upon its release by MGM, but all prints have been lost to time. The film is considered to be the most famous and sought after lost film of all time, with Turner Classic Movies airing a reconstructed version of the film using the original script as well as actual production stills.

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1,200 year old telephone

This ancient Peruvian telephone was unearthed in the 1930s by Baron Walram V. Von Schoeler, "a shadowy Indiana Jones-type adventurer."

The gourd-and-twine device, created 1,200 to 1,400 years ago, remains tantalizingly functional — and too fragile to test out. “This is unique,” NMAI curator Ramiro Matos, an anthropologist and archaeologist who specializes in the study of the central Andes, tells me. “Only one was ever discovered. It comes from the consciousness of an indigenous society with no written language.”

We'll never know the trial and error that went into its creation. The marvel of acoustic engineering — cunningly constructed of two resin -coated gourd receivers, each three-and-one-half inches long; stretched-hide membranes stitched around the bases of the receivers; and cotton-twine cord extending 75 feet when pulled taut—arose out of the Chimu empire at its height.

There’s a 1,200-year-old Phone in the Smithsonian Collections (Via Daily Grail) Read the rest

Sometimes, you misplace your Moon dust

The University of California, Berkeley recently found 20 vials of Moon dust in an archival warehouse. Apparently, these were all loaned research samples that should have been returned to NASA more than 40 years ago. This is not the only institution to suffer from the same problem. At least 12 states had (and then lost) collections of small Moon rocks. Minnesota found theirs last year in a display case at the state Veteran Services Building, crowded into a cluster of lesser memorabilia, including an 8th-place award in a shooting competition. It could happen to anybody. Read the rest

Photos and ephemera from the Hindenburg

The Hindenburg disaster happened 75 years ago this month. In this incredibly fascinating video, Cheryl Ganz, the chief curator for the National Postal Museum, talks about the photographs, letters, and maps collected by Hindenburg passenger Peter Belan.

Belan was on the Hindenburg when it burst into flame. In fact, he took a whole roll of photos from the doomed ship as it came in for a landing, photos that haven't ever been published before. You'll see some of them here. Belan's pockets and suitcase are the source of some of the only surviving examples of Hindenburg passenger documents, including receipts and a map of the ship's last route.

In particular, I absolutely love the Belan photographs. There's something very modern about them, or maybe just about the act of photographing a setting right before it becomes infamous. These shots make it easy to imagine a parallel-universe Belan twittering the disaster as it happened.

Read more about the Hindenburg disaster at Smithsonian Read the rest

The last space suit on the Moon

This is the space suit worn by Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan, the last human being to set foot on the Moon.

Side note: I knew these suits were heavy. I had not realized how heavy. With 26 layers of material in the suit, a portable life-support system strapped on, and other mechanical systems attached, the whole thing weighed in at 185 pounds on Earth.

Via Smithsonian

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