Own a decommissioned lighthouse with bids starting at $10K

Psst, wanna buy a lighthouse? As more and more are decommissioned thanks to GPS, the market has seen an influx of lighthouses for sale. Read the rest

The race to find Incan ruins to halt US oil drilling

Peruvian archaeologists and activists have joined with the indigenous Harakmbut people to find legendary Incan lost cities. If they find them soon enough, traditional Harakmbut lands leased to an American oil company might be designated off-limits to drilling. Read the rest

Preserving endangered dark rides with VR

Crystal writes, "'Dark rides' like the Spookarama at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park, those single-cart rides that take you through a haunted house full of ghosts and scares. They're prime for teenage making out, have been around for 100 years -- and they're disappearing. Joel Zika, a 36-year-old art and design university professor in Melbourne, Australia, has been fascinated with the dark rides for years, reveling their connection to early horror effects in movies. So he decided to document them in the only way that would truly do them justice: virtual reality." Read the rest

Meet the best-preserved mammoth in history of paleontology

Yuka died 39,000 years ago, and is so well-preserved that we can tell she was a ginger. Read the rest

Library of Congress: Copyright is killing sound archiving

In 2000, the US National Recording Preservation Act mandated the Library of Congress to conduct an in-depth study on the state of audio preservation and archiving. The Library has finished its study and one of its most damning conclusions is that copyright -- not technical format hurdles -- are the major barrier to successful preservation. Simply put, the copyright laws that the recording industry demanded are so onerous that libraries inevitably have to choose whether to be law-breakers or whether to abandon their duty to preserve and archive audio.

"Were copyright law followed to the letter, little audio preservation would be undertaken. Were the law strictly enforced, it would brand virtually all audio preservation as illegal," the study concludes, "Copyright laws related to preservation are neither strictly followed nor strictly enforced. Consequently, some audio preservation is conducted."

While libraries supposedly have some leeway in preserving audio recordings, they find it "virtually impossible to reconcile their responsibility for preserving and making accessible culturally important sound recordings with their obligation to adhere to copyright laws". The problem is that the current provisions in law for audio preservation are "restrictive and anachronistic" in our current digitial age.

There are more problems. While the recording industry undertakes some preservation, they will only preserve those recordings from which they think they might profit in the future (what a surprise). For instance, consider a researcher working on vaudeville who may be interested in vaudevillian recordings on cylinders.

"These performers may have been headliners in their time, but today their names are virtually unknown," the study details, "While scholarly interest in these recordings is high, their economic value to the property holder is negligible.

Read the rest

Grinch steals Christmas, rare Asian conifer

Friendly holiday reminder, people: The local arboretum is NOT your personal Christmas tree chopping ground.

Last Wednesday, somebody entered the University of Washington's Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle and walked out with a rare south Asian conifer, called a Keteleeria, worth more than $10,000. It's genetic material is likely irreplaceable, Arboretum officials said, because it came from a part of China that's seen rapid development and lost much of its native plant life. As the tree was between 7 and 8 ft. tall and 3 in. at the base, officials believe it was chopped down to serve as a Christmas tree. Ironically, it was also a spindly, Charlie Brown-looking thing and wouldn't even be as attractive as the plentiful Douglas Firs usually used for such decoration. Meanwhile, species preservation suffers.

"We feel as if Christmas has been stolen from us," says David Zuckerman, horticulture supervisor for UW Botanic Gardens.

University Press Release

Pictured: The Keteleeria tree in happier times, photographed by the UW Botanic Gardens.

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Measuring the smell of old books to find candidates for preservation

Matija Strlic and colleagues write in the ACS's Analytical Chemistry about "material degradomics," a techniques by which the odors emanating from old books are noninvasively analyzed to figure out which books are rotting and need preservation:

Matija Strlic and colleagues note in the new study that the familiar musty smell of an old book, as readers leaf through the pages, is the result of hundreds of so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air from the paper. Those substances hold clues to the paper's condition, they say. Conventional methods for analyzing library and archival materials involve removing samples of the document and then testing them with traditional laboratory equipment. But this approach destroys part of the document.

The new technique, called "material degradomics," analyzes the gases emitted by old books and documents without altering the documents themselves.

'Smell of Old Books' Offers Clues to Help Preserve Them

(Image: Books of the Past, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from Lin Pernille ♥ Photography's photostream)

Previously: Books as planters - Boing Boing Furniture made out of used books - Boing Boing Luscious ancient French papercraft activity book scans - Boing Boing Esoteric classics: a list of books - Boing Boing Boing Boing: Adopt a book at the British Library Read the rest