Lincoln’s coat: preserve or display?

The Brooks Brothers (!) coat Abraham Lincoln was wearing the night of his assassination is part of Ford’s Theater permanent collection.

Until last year when Ford’s closed for renovations, the coat had been on exhibit since the museum acquired it in 1968, but now that reopening approaches, some conservators are concerned that the coat can’t take being on public display much longer.

Light and gravity can doom historic clothing, they say. And the Brooks Brothers coat, like other Lincoln garments, had been on almost continuous display from the time they were acquired in 1968 until Ford’s was closed for renovation last year, officials said.

“It might be that it’s time to put these things away and not to exhibit them to the public if there’s any hope of saving them for future generations,” said Cathy Heffner, president of Textile Preservation Associates, who said she examined the clothes for the National Park Service last month.

The concern illustrates an ongoing debate over the display of national treasures: the desire to preserve items for posterity vs. the right of citizens to experience them.

It’s a tough question. Light damages textiles irreparably. There is no way to restore them once the UV rays have done their thing. UV blocking technology can help delay the inevitable, but it’s not a long-term solution.

Meanwhile, people want to see these kinds of deeply personal artifacts of iconic figures. How much closer can you get to the great man himself than to see his blood on his coat?

Neanderthals ate sea mammals

Archaeologists have found evidence that Neanderthals living in caves on the Rock of Gibraltar ate seals and dolphins.

This is a major find because up until now there has only been evidence of our more direct Cro-Magnon ancestors eating seafood, a misconception that has helped bolster the presumption of our cognitive superiority.

The researchers can’t be sure how the ancient Neanderthals hunted their seafood, but suggest that perhaps Neanderthals used clubs to kill seals that came close to the beach to have their pups. This skill might have involved knowledge of the seasons, and prediction of seal birthing time. And maybe they snatched dolphins that swam too close to shore, or got stranded on the beach.

The fact that the sea mammal remains found in the caves date from several different time periods spread over about 30,000 years demonstrates that seafood eating wasn’t just a fluke event, but a practiced and repeated behavior, Finlayson said. And there’s no reason to think it wasn’t happening all along the coasts of Portugal and Spain where Neanderthals were living at the time.

Not having any idea that scientists claimed Neanderthals were strictly land-meat eaters, I find it an odd assumption. Even if it had been true, why would it indicate cognitive inferiority?

It’s not like the other humans used dragnets or dynamite or something to get their seafood. They probably hunted and scavenged just like the Neanderthals did. :confused:

Caligula wuz here

More specifically, Caligula died here. The crazy sumbitch was killed by his own guards in a passageway underneath the palace, and now, Italian archaeologists may have found that very passageway.

Maria Antonietta Tomei, a Rome archeologist, said a cryptoportico or underground corridor discovered beneath the imperial palaces on the Palatine Hill matched exactly the description given by the Rome historian Suetonius, who says that the Emperor was stabbed to death after watching an entertainment. He left via the passageway, where the Praetorian Guard led by its commander, Cassius Chaerea, was lying in wait.

Professor Tomei said she was “absolutely convinced” that the cryptportico was the one in which Caligula met his end. Although it bore builders’ stamps from the time of Claudius, it already existed at the time of Caligula, and had only been restructured by his uncle and successor.

Cassius Chaerea particularly hated Caligula because he mocked him all the time, giving him embarrassing watchwords. Moral of the story: do not mercilessly taunt your bodyguard.

Anyway, Professor Tomei seems suspiciously certain that this is the corridor in question. Suetonius isn’t exactly rich with detailed descriptions of the corridor. He just says it was a covered passage.

Unless there was only one of them underneath the palace, I don’t see how they could know for sure they’ve found the place Caligula died.

Upscale Blitz tunnels for sale

The little people of WWII London hid in subway stations during the Blitz. Big shots (like spies and government functionaries) got much nicer digs: the Kingsway Tunnels.

British Telecom owns them now, and they’re looking to sell.

The two wartime tunnels that kept the men in bowler hats safe from the Luftwaffe were supplemented in the 1950s by four more, about half as long as the originals, added by the Post Office, who turned the site into a vast telephone exchange. The large tunnels are linked by smaller ones, and the sense of being in an underground town is heightened by the wooden roads signs that tell you which tunnel you are in – “South Street”, “First Avenue” or “Tea Bar Alley” etc. A menu board is still on the wall in the old staff restaurant, offering sausages, chips, tea and sweets

During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the world hovered on the brink of nuclear war, dozens of engineers, technicians and support staff were literally entombed in the tunnels, forbidden to go up to ground level for days. Their grim task would have been to keep phones working after London was obliterated by a nuclear bomb. They had emergency generators to keep the machines, lights and air conditioning going independently of whatever horror was being experienced above. They also had a well-stocked bar and restaurant, a recreation room with a snooker table, a private cinema and an artesian well for fresh water.

Sounds pretty sweet, neh? I’ve always wanted a bomb shelter, but I was thinking more goofy 50’s cinderblock style. This one is deluxe.

You’d think a mile of prime downtown London historical real estate would get snapped right up, but health and safety codes prevent the space from being used in the most lucrative ways. No boutique Blitz Hotel, no nightclubs, no Howard Hughes-style personal dwelling.

The realtors claim they’ve already seen interest, but BT won’t say what kind of money they’re looking to make from the deal. I read £5 million, but that’s unconfirmed.

Roman Elvis underdelivers

He sold for £24,000 ($41,000). The estimate was between £25,000 and £30,000, so somebody got themselves a bargain.

Apparently the whole Bonhams auction sold a lot less than expected, despite the publicity from Roman Elvis and Italy demanding some of their stuff back.

David Gill lays it out adroitly.

Out of three lots that got the most attention, one (Elvis) sold under estimate, one (the Hydria) was withdrawn due to its being stolen goods, and one just didn’t sell. The overall sales total was projected to be something in the $1.3 million range. Instead, they made $814,000, and many lots remain unsold.

Perhaps the bleak economic news is making people less willing to spend big on Roman bouffants.