Tuesday, December 22, 2009

State of Happiness

Posted by the University of Warwick (United Kingdom):

"New research by the UK’s University of Warwick and Hamilton College in the US has used the happiness levels of a million individual US citizens to discover which are the best and worst states in which to live in the United States. New York and Connecticut come bottom of a life-satisfaction league table, and Hawaii and Louisiana are at the top. The analysis reveals also that happiness levels closely correlate with objective factors such as congestion and air quality across the US’s 50 states.

The new research published in the elite journal Science on 17th December 2009 is by Professor Andrew Oswald of the UK’s University of Warwick and Stephen Wu of Hamilton College in the US. It provides the first external validation of people’s self-reported levels of happiness. “We would like to think this is a breakthrough. It provides an justification for the use of subjective well-being surveys in the design of government policies, and will be of value to future economic and clinical researchers across a variety of fields in science and social science” said Professor Oswald.

The researchers examined a 2005- 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System random sample of 1.3 million United States citizens in which life-satisfaction in each U.S. state was measured. This provided a league table of happiness by US State reproduced below. The researchers decided to use the data to try to resolve one of the most significant issues facing economists and clinical scientists carrying out research into human well-being.

Researchers have to rely on people’s self declared levels of happiness – but how can one trust those self declarations? There have been studies that try to match declared levels of happiness to clinical signs of stress such as blood pressure. That has been useful, but one cannot know for sure whether those physiological signs are driving happiness or whether the reverse is true. Researchers have, for decades, longed for a more clearly external scientific check on, and corroboration of, well-being survey answers.

The two researchers stumbled on a parallel approach that allowed them to do such a check. They discovered research by Stuart Gabriel and colleagues from UCLA published in 2003 which considered objective indicators for each individual State of the USA such as: precipitation; temperature; wind speed; sunshine; coastal land; inland water; public land; National Parks; hazardous waste sites; environmental ‘greenness’; commuting time; violent crime; air quality; student-teacher ratio; local taxes; local spending on education and highways; cost of living. This allowed the creation of a rank order of US states showing which should provide the happiest living experience. This was a truly external data source that could be used to check the self declared levels of happiness; Gabriel’s team had no happiness data in 2003 that could allow the check to be completed.

But Professors Oswald and Wu were able to do the first state-by-state USA happiness calculations. They then obtained Gabriel’s numbers. When the two rankings were compared, they found a close correlation between people’s subjective life-satisfaction scores and objectively estimated quality of life.

The lead author on the study, Professor Andrew Oswald from the University of Warwick, said:

'The beauty of this statistical method is that we are able to look below the surface of American life -- to identify the deep patterns in people's underlying life satisfaction and happiness from Alabama to Wyoming. The type of study is new to the United States. We are the first to be able to do this calculation -- partly because we are fortunate enough to have a random anonymized sample of 1.3 million Americans. But we could not have done it without the early painstaking work by Gabriel’s team.'

'The state-by-state pattern is of interest in itself. But it also matters scientifically. We wanted to study whether people's feelings of satisfaction with their own lives are reliable, that is, whether they match up to reality -- of sunshine hours, congestion, air quality, etc -- in their own state. And they do match. When human beings give you an answer on a numerical scale about how satisfied they are with their lives, you should pay attention.

People’s happiness answers are true, you might say. This suggests that life-satisfaction survey data might be tremendously useful for governments to use in the design of economic and social policies.' said Oswald.

Professor Oswald expressed caution in how some of the exact results should be interpreted – for example, for the state of Louisiana in the survey following the disruption in caused by Hurricane Katrina, but was confident that the data on most states was a true reflection of well-being levels saying:

'We have been asked a lot whether we expected that states like New York and California would do so badly in the happiness ranking. Having visited and lived in various parts of the US, I am only a little surprised. Many people think these states would be marvellous places to live in. The problem is that if too many individuals think that way, they move into those states, and the resulting congestion and house prices make it a non-fulfilling prophecy. In a way, it is like the stock market. If everyone thinks it would be great to buy stock X, that stock is generally already overvalued. Bargains in life are usually found outside the spotlight. It seems that exactly the same is true of the best places to live.'"

8South Carolina
12North Carolina
15South Dakota
24New Mexico
25North Dakota
27New Hampshire
34West Virginia
37District of Columbia
42Rhode Island
49New Jersey
51New York

Friday, December 18, 2009

Janet Hooper, New Orleans Architect

Janet Estelle Hooper (image above) was a registered architect in Louisiana who joined the American Institute of Architects in 1949. She graduated with a B.Arch from Tulane University in 1933.

Thanks to TU Archives' Lori Schexnayder for the yearbook image! If you are interested in learning more about twentieth-century American women architects, consult the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation Dynamic National Archive.

Image above: "Janet Estelle Hooper" Newcomb Yearbook 1928-1929. New Orleans: Tulane University, 1929. Courtesy Tulane University Archives, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF)

The French National Library Image Bank includes historic maps of New Orleans and surrounding areas. Enter "Nouvelle Orleans" in the search box. Shown above, is a detail of a 1731 map of the city by Lherbourg. Enter "Mississippi" to see representations of early forts and coastal maps. The BnF image bank also contains American building plans, including one for the Custom House and Post Office, Plattsburgh, New York (1856).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ada Arnold, New Orleans Architect

In 1923, Ada Isabelle Arnold received her B.Arch. from Tulane University. Her four-year course in architecture was financed by a scholarship she received from the New Orleans Contractors and Dealers' Exchange and the Louisiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.(1)  She was licensed to practice architecture in Louisiana, and by 1926 was treasurer of the Louisiana Architects Association.

Her projects included the Gretna Elementary School, which was constructed at Huey P. Long between 8th and 9th Streets, built for a total cost of $90,000. The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains 1951 alteration drawings for the structure in its William R. Burk Office Records Collection.

Thanks to TU Archives' Lori Schexnayder and architectural photographer Robert Brantley for the supplemental information! If you are interested in learning more about twentieth-century American women architects, consult the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation Dynamic National Archive.

Image above: "Ada Isabelle Arnold" Tulane Yearbook 1923. New Orleans: Tulane University, 1923, p. 167. The photograph is accompanied by the poem: "Here's a flower blushing unseen/In this garden of Engineering greens." Courtesy Tulane University Archives, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

(1)"Personals." Building Review (October 1919): p. 11. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

1952 Better Rooms Contest

In 1952, New Orleans architects Mark Lowery, Lemuel McCoy and James Lamantia submitted designs to the annual Chicago Tribune "Better Rooms Competition." They were not the only architects to do so: Eero Saarinen was also one of 1,100 competitors that year. Each participant was required to submit drawings showing the furnishing, arrangement, and decoration related to one of seven designated room types.

In January 1952, Edward Barry announced the competition:

"Do not hesitate to enter The Tribune's $24,050 Sixth Annual Better Rooms competition merely because you feel the idea you want to submit may be considered extreme. Bold and original interior treatments, if they are practical, will be welcomed. The history of this influential contest proves that the various juries which have chosen the winners have always been hospitable to the new.

"One successful entrant used different floor levels to mark off the separate areas of a living-dining room. Several have specified centrally located fireplace walls. One winner of a major prize constructed an excellent multipurpose room in the unused half of a two-car garage. The need for providing television viewing facilities has resulted in some room treatments which at first glance seemed bizarre, but which on further study revealed themselves as logical and beautiful."

Ultimately, the Chicago Tribune awarded $24,050 in prizes after jurors Meyric R. Rogers, Richard Kostka, Paul R. MacAlister, Rod Cook and Boyd Hill reached consensus. Over 43 winners from 12 states and one foreign country won the 52 available prizes.

Image above: Detail from Mark Lowery, Lemuel McCoy, and James Lamantia's A-4 Bedroom for Single Occupancy-Juvenile 115 design for the Chicago Tribune's 6th Annual Better Rooms Competition, 1952. Mixed media on illustration board. James Lamantia Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

ON DISPLAY in the Southeastern Architectural Archive's new exhibition.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Homeward Bound/-17º F

As the windchill factor has dipped to -17º F in my hometown today, I am reminded that I am heading home. My grandma turns 89 years old this month, and we are planning a long drive across the Midwest to the northern plains, roughly thirteen hours from Oshkosh, Wisconsin to Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Grand Forks sits at the juncture of two rivers, one flowing north (Red River), one flowing south (Red Lake River). In the spring of 1997, the Red River was slowly melting as it coursed northwards. It remained frozen north of Grand Forks. The city and surrounding areas were inundated with water, and the communities of Grand Forks, North Dakota and East Grand Forks, Minnesota, were evacuated by the National Guard. Since the Red River Valley was once the bottom of a vast glacial lake, the flood spread over a hundred miles.... Oslo, Minnesota, became an island. Reluctantly, my grandma drove in the early morning hours to her hometown of Edmore, roughly ninety miles west. [The windchill is -29º F there today].

After Grand Forks evacuated, an electrical fire spread through the historic downtown. Firefighters could not get their trucks through the high waters (image above).

Twelve years after the flood and fire, the city has never looked better. New dikes, new biking/walking paths, expanded public greenspaces, a thriving arts community downtown. My Art Deco junior high school, originally slated for demolition after the flood, was adapted for reuse as a senior citizens' apartment building. My grandma took me through the building as the crews were working on Mr. Sinclair's former mathematics classroom, changing it into a small apartment with enormous south-facing windows. The Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] proclaimed this project a successful use of 'preservation as part of the recovery effort, to assure the residents of a community that their memories and values will continue to thrive as the community rebuilds.'

See: C.A. Bigenwald and Randall White, "Heritage Preservation and Disaster Management: United States and Canada," Options Politiques (April 2003): pp. 36-40. Available at: www.irpp.org/po/archive/apr03/bigenwald.pdf

Friday, December 11, 2009

Images in Glass

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains several collections that contain fragile glass media: glass transparencies, glass lantern slides, and glass negatives. These range chronologically from the mid-nineteeenth to the mid-twentieth century and in scale from 2 1/4" x 3 1/4" to 11 x 14".

The item reproduced above formerly resided in the Tulane School of Architecture's Slide Library, part of a large collection of glass lantern slides that were used by faculty for teaching purposes. Photographer/musician Guy F. Bernard (1906-1982) took the photograph of the E. Lacroix Tomb Gate in St. Lous Cemetery No. III. The gate's ornamental cast iron with weeping willow, lambs and doves once evidenced the white polychromy shown here.

New Orleans modernist architect Albert C. Ledner took the second image while visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin in 1948. What you see above is a digital reproduction of a 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 color transparency sandwiched into a Jiffy Mount. The New York city-based Diamant Products Company trademarked the Jiffy Mount, envisioning it as a means of preserving color transparencies and negatives indefinitely.

This last digital reproduction has been taken from an 8 x 10" glass plate negative by photographer George Francois Mugnier (1855-1936) and depicts a Bird's Eye View of the New Orleans levee. Its source is a gelatin dry plate negative, a process that was invented in 1871 by Richard Leach Maddox. The gelatin dry plates were commercially produced and became quite popular by 1880, only to be superceded by gelatin silver paper negatives and gelatin silver celluloid negatives in the 1920s.

First Image: Guy F. Bernard, photographer. Cast Iron Gate, undated lantern slide. Tulane School of Architecture Lantern Slides Collection.

Second Image: Albert C. Ledner, photographer. Taliesin Entrance, Spring Green, Wisconsin, 1948. Albert C. Ledner Office Records Collection.

Third Image: George Francois Mugnier, photographer. Bird's Eye View of the Levee. undated gelatin dry plate negative.

All three items reside in the Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Architect's Advertisement 1886

New Orleans architect John F. Braun placed this ad in Soards' City Directory in 1886. He served as the Superintendent of Buildings and as an agent for Chicago's W.E. Hale & Co. and New York's Otis Brothers & Co. Both companies produced new elevator designs, and by 1887 Otis was also selling rotating fans that operated on one-horse gas engines.

Image above: John F. Braun advertisement, Soards' City Directory. New Orleans, 1886. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Architect's Advertisement 1853

In 1852 and 1853, New Orleans architect Etienne Courcelle placed full-page advertisements in the New Orleans city directory. He proclaimed himself "Architect and Keeper of the Old Catholic Cemetery, No. 1." While his 1852 advertisement was sparing except for its use of text sizes and styles, the 1853 version (shown above) was much more decorative, with a wood engraving of a cemetery monument and an elaborate border.

Image above: Advertisement, Soards City Directory. New Orleans, 1853. Louisiana Research Collection, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Visual Resources White Paper


LOS ANGELES, California -- The Visual Resources Association (VRA), the international organization for image media professionals, has published a White Paper to promote holistic thinking about effectively meeting institutional as well as individual image user needs. In an environment of rapid technological change and in the face of challenging economic conditions, Advocating for Visual Resources Management in Educational and Cultural Institutions identifies six strategic areas for consideration in planning for the future: multiple sources for images; ways of integrating personal and institutional collections; social computing and collaborative projects; the life-cycle continuum of image assets and their description; rights and copyright compliance; and visual literacy.

The paper argues that managers of image collections have successfully re-aligned operations to meet digital demands and that new technologies, extended responsibilities, and closer alliances with related services-such as information technology, rights management, and course management-typify the changes in the work of visual resources professionals. This work now involves building institution-wide resources tied into central digital information infrastructures for the management and preservation of content in a variety of media. Image managers are increasingly involved in inter-institutional efforts to share collections and distribute labor-intensive tasks.

VRA asserts that eliminating visual resources services carries high risk during this transitional era and does not serve an institution's broader educational mission. Current VRA President Allan Kohl states "At a time when more academic disciplines are using images as primary teaching resources, and visual literacy is increasingly understood as being central to learning, it is more important than ever to support the building of shared collections to reduce redundancy, facilitate resource sharing, increase efficiencies, and minimize costs." In fact, many institutions have begun to re-examine the appropriate administrative home of visual resources collections in response to the changes brought about by the increasing demand for digital media in pedagogy. The VRA White Paper concludes by describing several successful administrative scenarios that offer flexible options for building shared image collections and providing support for the constituents of educational and cultural institutions.

Advocating for Visual Resources Management in Educational and Cultural Institutions is available online and may be freely distributed:
http://www.vraweb.org/resources/general/vra_white_paper.pdf orhttp://www.facebook.com/VisualResourcesAssociation