Lately a few local neighborhood blogs have been featuring the history of the streets beneath their feet, and I have been interested to see the excitement generated by this engagement with place. Recent popular mythos describes the reverse phenomenon, the suburban “Bowling Alone” culture of disengagement with local community. I’m happy to see that there seems to be a reverse trend, aided by historical documents made available by digital technology and sharing initives. Focusing on the Mission in San Francisco, Mission Mission and Burrito Justice have been checking out maps and re-tracing old neighborhood features like streams, lakes, and race tracks. In the comments: “WHOA. Do I have my numbered streets wrong, or did Dolores Park used to be a… JEWISH CEMETERY?” This warms my little archaeologist-nerd heart.
I couldn’t find much for Berkeley, besides more general blogs about the history of radical activism in the Bay Area, but there were more blogs about Oakland popping up and many of them directly cited the recent violence and rioting connected with the Oscar Grant shooting by a BART police officer. Two of my favorite local Oakland blogs are run by the same person, Andrew Alden. Oakland Geology documents the rocks and road cuts in this earthquake-prone area, with exhortations to just take a moment and look around. His other blog, Oakland Sidewalk Stamps is a bit closer to the topic at hand, which documents the stamps in the concrete all around town. I wish he’d post them on flickr and geolocate them though. One of the most interesting posts that I found was on City Homestead, documenting the scrawled names inside a house and connecting this history to the broader history of the neighborhood.
I’m disinclined to start a Berkeley history blog, but I’d love for local historical archaeologists to take the ball and run with it. I guess I am in a transitional place right now–I know that I will not live here for much longer and have not invested much in my local community. It’s a shame, really.
I looked around to see if there were any historical items on the local blogs of my hometown, Austin, TX, but I couldn’t find any. All I found were posts about booze, music, and food, which, now that I think of it, was the only thing I paid attention to while I was in Austin as well!