Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

Immerse Yourself in the Sounds of 18th Century Paris

Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

Paintings and drawings can give us an idea of what the cities of the past looked like, but they can’t give us the full picture of what it would be like to visit, say, Paris in the 1700s. But thanks to musicologist Mylène Pardoen, you can witness the sonic experience of a bustling 18th century city virtually.

Working at a University of Lyon lab called Passages XXI, she created a detailed soundscape of 18th century Paris focused on the Grand Châtelet district. Her work, highlighted by Open Culture and CNRS News, is based on historic documents from the time and scholarship from historians, including those specializing in urban architecture.

All the sounds were recorded with an ear for historic accuracy. Noises from machines (like looms or printing presses) were made with antique devices, and the sounds of livestock are from real animals. The only thing that was recreated artificially was the sound of a water pump, which required recording the noise of an antique water pump and then altering the sound to reflect the estimated size of the Notre Dame water pump in the 18th century. All in all, the soundscape, accompanied by 3D animations of the historic area, contains 70 different sounds that come together to form a complex sonic experience that includes everything from the sounds of crowds to barnyard animals to the buzzing of flies around a fishmonger’s stall.

It’s similar to a video game for history nerds, allowing you to delve into the aural experience of another time period. Designed as a prototype for museums, it may one day allow you to freely navigate with 360° animation, though it’s not currently interactive.

[h/t Open Culture]

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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New Website Lets You Sift Through More Than 700,000 Items Found in Amsterdam's Canals
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Amsterdam's canals are famous for hiding more than eight centuries of history in their mud. From 2003 to 2012, archaeologists had the rare opportunity to dig through an urban river that had been pumped dry, and now 99% Invisible reports that their discoveries are available to browse online.

The new website, dubbed Below the Surface, was released with a book and a documentary of the same name. The project traces the efforts of an archaeological dig that worked parallel to the construction of Amsterdam's new North/South metro line. To bore the train tunnels, crews had to drain part of the River Amstel that runs through the city and dig up the area. Though the excavation wasn't originally intended as an archaeological project, the city used it as an opportunity to collect and preserve some of its history.

About 800 years ago, a trading port popped up at the mouth of the River Amstel and the waterway become a bustling urban hub. Many of the artifacts that have been uncovered are from that era, while some are more contemporary, and one piece dates back to 4300 BCE. All 700,000 objects, which include, toys, coins, and weapons, are cataloged online.

Visitors to the website can look through the collection by category. If you want to view items from the 1500s, for example, you can browse by time period. You also have the option to search by material, like stoneware, for example, and artifact type, like clothing.

After exploring the database, you can learn more about its history in the Below the Surface documentary on Vimeo (English subtitles are coming soon).

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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