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Obscura Day 2011: One For the History Books

Now that Obscura Day is behind us and we’ve had a chance to sleep for a week or so, we are looking back and seeing stories and photos from all of the amazing events that went down all around the world.

All told, more than 100 events went down on Saturday April 9 in cities on all seven continents, from furthest north in Bodo Norway to furthest south at McMurdo Station, Antarctic and all places in between. Here’s a peek at just some of the highlights of the big day:

Vancouver Police MuseumVancouver Police Museum - Obscura Day 2011 Tour -

 

The Vancouver Police Museum put in a two day showing, kicking off Obscura Day with their awesome, prohibition themed Bootlegger’s Ball on April 8, followed the next day by a tour of their collections, housed in the city’s former morgue. Said one slightly hungover admirer: “you know you’re on a hell of a museum tour if it’s actually enjoyable on a miserable Saturday morning.”

Alcatraz IslandAlcatraz Behind the Scenes Tour - Obscura Day 2011 - Flickr nicocrisafulli

 

 

Explorers on San Francisco’s expedition to Alcatraz were the envy of the tourist masses as we were led behind locked doors and post fences into the secret heart of the island. Two amazing park rangers form the National Parks Service walked us through the island’s history as a Civil War era Army fortress to it’s infamy as the prison island.

Read more here on the Ten Times One blog: “The ranger brandished a flower of antique keys, unlocking antechambers and cell-blocks long closed to the average wandering tourist”

Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale & Dorothy’s GalleryParis Obscura Day 2011 Festivities - Altas Obscura Blog Recap

“…a curious relic of France’s colonial past” Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale The Parisian contingent, led by the intrepid Adam of the Invisible Paris blog, went into the wildness of what was once the tropical garden built for the Paris was the site of a Colonial Fair in 1907 complete with imported exotic natives. The site, now in barely recognizable ruins, brought up questions about preservation and the awkward history of Europe’s past imperial age. The questions are tough, but the photographs are fantastic. Read more about it here: Invisible Paris, Landscape Lover, Peter’s Paris, Lilliam Lau, Jennyphoria

The evening was celebrated with cocktails and treats at Dorothy’s Gallery, with a presentation of sights and sounds from the garden. Here’s Pret a Moi’s coverage of the evening, a peek at the edible cobblestones created by Emperor Norton of Paris, and you can see the garden photos by Shane Lynam and listen to the soundscape by Des Coulam here. Even more photos here.

Coney Island Creek Ghost ShipsConey Island Creek Ghost Ships - Obscura Day 2011 Tour - photo @believekarolina

 

Our friends from Underwater New York lead a fascinating outing to visit the hulking wrecks of ships in the Coney Island Creek. Photos of the ghostly remains

WLCoWSVoWLTWorld's Largest Collection World's Smallest Versions World's Largest Things - Obscura Day 2011

 

In Lucas, Kansas, Erika Nelson, curator of the amazingly named The World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things, gave a presentation highlighting her love of America’s roadside attractions and showed off her fabulous art car. Silly America’s Review of Obscura Day in Lucas

Cushing Brain CollectionCushing Brain Collection - Yale Museum - Obscura Day 2011 Tour

 

JW Ocker, of the Odd Things I’ve Seen blog joined us for a tour of New Haven’s Cushing Brain Collection, home to the 500 brains of Dr. Harvey Cushing, a neurosurgery pioneer of the last turn of the century. The collection, which now belongs to Yale University, has recently been relocated to a custom built showroom where Obscura Day visitors were set free to wander and marvel at the unusual but stangely beautiful collection. JW Ocker’s report and photos here: Terry swiped her badge and opened the door, triggering the motion-activated lights and dramatically revealing hundreds of jars full of human memory meat.”

Brickmania ToyworksBrickmania Lego Party - Obscura Day 2011 - Atlas Obscura Blog

 

In Minneapolis, Obscura Day participants mixed childhood creativity and booze at Brickmania Toyworks, a warehouse space containing astonishingly detailed cityscapes and electrified trains constructed from Legos. Visitors played with the toys to their heart’s content, all while sipping on hand-crafted gourmet cocktails. Stories and photos here: Legos & Booze, MPL’s Bucket List, GMLTC

Gulley Cabinet of CuriosityGulley Cabinet of Curiosity - Obscura Day 2011 Adventure in North Carolina

 

Obscura Day visitors in Elkin, North Carolina explored the private cabinet of curiosities maintained by Anne and Paul Gulley, including rare natural history specimens, a wealth of books, and a “pet hamster who landed at the taxidermy shop instead of a backyard grave”. Read more here: “The keepers of the flame of the obscure”

The Sun-Yat Sen Chinese Garden, VancouverYat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden - Vancouver BC - Obscura Day 2011

 

In Vancouver, the first full-sized Ming Dynasty Scholar’s Garden built outside of China hosted an Obscura Day look into the history and hidden meanings of the design of the garden, including lucky bats, symbols of the four elements, and zombie-deterring paths. Read more here: Obscura Day at the Sun Yet Sen Chinese Garden

Stanford Hospital Pneumatic DispatchStandford Pneumatic Tubes - Obscura Day 2011 - image by piemouth on flickr

 

For the second year running, Stanford Hospital showed off their pneumatic tube network, one of the largest networks in the world. Every day, Stanford sends some 7,000 messages through their system, zipping samples and paperwork through the building at 18 miles per hour. Lizzie Fox took some amazing photos. Curious? Here’s a video showing how it works:

Zymoglyphic MuseumZymoglyphic Museum - Obscura Day 2011 Tour - Coconut Crab Terror

 

Also for the second year, Jim from the Zymoglyphic Museum in San Mateo opened up his private collection of oddities for Obscura Day visitors.

Dittrick Medical MuseumDittrick Museum Tour - Obscura Day 2011 - Rare Book Viewing

 

In Cleveland, the Dittrick Museum showed off its amazing collection of rare medical books and obscure items from their historic medical collections. Read more: “Instruments that invoke a grimace and cringe”

Greenslade Archives
Dalí Greenslade Archives - Kenyon College - Obscura Day 2011 Tour

Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio opened up their special collections for Obscura Day visitors for a peek at items ranging from presidential autographs to the college founder’s founder tobacco jar and china set. We were particularly excited about their collection of Salvador Dali illustrations for Paradise Lost. Obscura Day at the Greenslade Archives

Los Angeles’ Tile HouseTile House Tour - Los Angeles - Hollywood Hills - Obscura Day 2011

 

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