Welikia's rendering of what Manhattan and the surrounding area might have looked like in 1609. Image Credit: Welikia via Calling Thunder
Welikia's rendering of what Manhattan and the surrounding area might have looked like in 1609. Image Credit: Welikia via Calling Thunder

Virtual Reality Project Imagines What Manhattan Sounded Like in 1609

Welikia's rendering of what Manhattan and the surrounding area might have looked like in 1609. Image Credit: Welikia via Calling Thunder
Welikia's rendering of what Manhattan and the surrounding area might have looked like in 1609. Image Credit: Welikia via Calling Thunder

What did a typical day in Manhattan sound like 400 years ago? Designer David Al-Ibrahim wants to help you imagine. Al-Ibrahim has created Calling Thunder: The Unsung History of Manhattan, a virtual reality experience that illuminates how the bustling isle of Manhattan might have felt before the Dutch arrived, back when it was a Lenape territory named Mannahatta, or “Island of Many Hills.”

As CityLab reports, Al-Ibrahim worked with Bill McQuay of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to source sounds from the lab’s Macaulay Library, an archive of wildlife audio. To get a sense of the geography and biodiversity of 17th century Manhattan, they also reached out to landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson, whose Welikia project is studying and mapping New York City as it looked in 1609.

This 360-degree video juxtaposes the Manhattan of today with the wild sights and sounds of the old Mannahatta, where you would hear black bears, crows, and trickling streams rather than delivery trucks and honking cars. To represent the area with as much historical accuracy as possible, there are no sounds from extinct animals, so you won’t hear any passenger pigeons (which went extinct in the 1910s) or other animals that the creators could not obtain original recordings of. But you can hear bullfrogs, osprey, red-tailed hawks, and other creatures.

On the project website, you can listen to binaural soundscapes (meaning you can hear different audio in each ear, so you’ll need stereo headphones) of places like Inwood Hill Park and the American Museum of Natural History. The 360-degree videos on the site, imagining the soundscapes of specific areas of Manhattan, all feature descriptions of the different animals that can be heard in that clip.

If you’re in New York City, try listening to the clips on your phone as you walk around Manhattan.

[h/t CityLab]

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Welikia's rendering of what Manhattan and the surrounding area might have looked like in 1609. Image Credit: Welikia via Calling Thunder
Museum of the City of New York
New York City Exhibition Celebrates the Rebellious Victorian-Era Women Who Made History
Museum of the City of New York
Museum of the City of New York

At a time when women wore corsets and hooped skirts, the American Jewish actress Adah Isaacs Menken caused quite a stir when she appeared onstage in men’s clothing. It was the early 1860s, and her portrayal of a man in the play Mazeppa saw her ride into the theater on a horse while wearing a flesh-colored body stocking. Critics were shocked, but Menken paid no mind. Both on stage and in her daily life, she continued to disregard the norms of that era by cutting her hair short and smoking cigarettes in public.

Menken is just one of the daring women featured in a new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. Rebel Women: Defying Victorianism celebrates the New York women who challenged the rigid expectations of the Victorian era, and includes a collection of photographs, clothes, and prints from the period.

A caricatures of the "Grecian bend"
Museum of the City of New York

The 19th century was a period of constraints for women. "During this era, a woman could be considered a rebel simply by speaking in public, working outside the home, or disregarding middle‐class morality or decorum," according to a museum statement. “Yet 19th‐century New York City was full of women who defied those expectations in both overt and subtle ways.”

The exhibit highlights the accomplishments of historic figures who contributed to the advancement of women’s rights, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but it also casts a light on lesser-known figures—many of whom history was unkind to.

A photo of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
Museum of the City of New York

An illustration of women voting
Museum of the City of New York

There’s Ann Trow Lohman, also known as “Madame Restell,” who was dubbed “The Wickedest Woman in New York” for providing birth control to women. Similarly, Hetty Green earned the moniker “The Witch of Wall Street” for her successful career as a stock broker.

Visitors will also learn about a predecessor to Rosa Parks: Elizabeth Jennings Graham, a black New Yorker who refused to get off of a segregated street car in 1854.

Not all of the women had such noble goals, though, and the exhibition shows that men didn’t have a monopoly on crime. Notorious pickpocket and con-woman Sophie Lyons used her smarts and beauty to steal from wealthy men and earned a reputation as "the most notorious confidence woman America has ever produced."

The exhibition will be on view until January 6, 2019, and tickets can be purchased online.

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Welikia's rendering of what Manhattan and the surrounding area might have looked like in 1609. Image Credit: Welikia via Calling Thunder
Marshall McLuhan, the Man Who Predicted the Internet in 1962

Futurists of the 20th century were prone to some highly optimistic predictions. Theorists thought we might be extending our life spans to 150, working fewer hours, and operating private aircrafts from our homes. No one seemed to imagine we’d be communicating with smiley faces and poop emojis in place of words.

Marshall McLuhan didn’t call that either, but he did come closer than most to imagining our current technology-led environment. In 1962, the author and media theorist, predicted we’d have an internet.

That was the year McLuhan, a professor of English born in Edmonton, Canada on this day in 1911, wrote a book called The Gutenberg Galaxy. In it, he observed that human history could be partitioned into four distinct chapters: The acoustic age, the literary age, the print age, and the then-emerging electronic age. McLuhan believed this new frontier would be home to what he dubbed a “global village”—a space where technology spread information to anyone and everyone.

Computers, McLuhan said, “could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization,” and offer “speedily tailored data.”

McLuhan elaborated on the idea in his 1962 book, Understanding Media, writing:

"Since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electro-magnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear."

But McLuhan didn’t concern himself solely with the advantages of a network. He cautioned that a surrender to “private manipulation” would limit the scope of our information based on what advertisers and others choose for users to see.

Marshall McLuhan died on December 31, 1980, several years before he was able to witness first-hand how his predictions were coming to fruition.

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