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An Exhaustive History Of Parisian Record Stores Since 1890

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These days, being a record collector also means being a bit of a history buff. A new website called Disquaires de Paris showcases the French capital's long listening history, documenting all the places where hip Parisians could once go to shop for vinyl, before the best finds were relegated to dusty flea market bins. Reaching back more than a century, it catalogs all the shops that sold vinyl in Paris, including during the earliest days of records in 1890. 

Thomas Henry, an avid collector of 78rpm records, works in social media and blogs about records at Ceints de bakélite. Disquaires de Paris came about as an offshoot of his collecting hobby. He would often find sleeves specially designed by certain record stores, and became curious about the wealth of vinyl sellers Paris once boasted. His site—a collaboration with the French graphic design studio Douny—is part tribute to a disappearing market, part archive for music historians. (Sorry, Anglophones—the site’s only in French. But it's pretty easy to navigate with Google Translate.) 

Image Courtesy Thomas Henry

Each store featured on the site is marked on a map of the city, and illustrated through some historical visual material: record sleeves, stamps, postcards with an illustration of the store, or old advertisements. Henry hits the flea markets every weekend in search of records and other ephemera of France’s musical history, and many of the documents showcased on the website come from his personal collection, though some come from collectors who responded to a call for contributions on the site. Henry also scoured the digital archive of the French National Library for old record store ads. To nail down the opening and closing dates of the stores, he searched the City of Paris Archive, old court records, and historic phone directories. 

Image Courtesy Thomas Henry

For now, Disquaires de Paris only catalogues stores that existed before 1960, but Henry hopes to expand the archive, as well as add anecdotes from collectors who actually visited some of these shops. 

Henry’s favorite find so far? L’Estudiantina, a music store that opened in the 1930s and served as the headquarters of the “Courrier international des sociétés mandolinistiques,” or the International courier of mandolinistic societies.

Explore more weird music history at Disquaires de Paris

[h/t: CityLab]

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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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