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But is it art?

July 28, 2010

The Peabody Museum at Harvard has what looks like a pretty cool exhibit running now, called “Spying on the Past: Declassified Satellite Images and Archaeology”. Looking only at the Peabody page, the name might seem a bit odd, given that, of the six images they show, at least four are not from spy satellites — nor, to my knowledge, were images from those satellites ever classified to begin with — and one is not from a satellite at all. There’s a Boston Globe article from a few days ago that discusses the exhibit, though, and it seems like the focus is heavily on the declassified CORONA imagery. It’s an interesting concept for an exhibit, and if I’m in Boston before the exhibit closes (which is a lot less likely than it would have been last year) I’ll probably stop by to see it.

The line about “modern technology” and its “up-to-the-minute dynamic” in the Globe article struck me as rather funny, though. Those CORONA images are 40 years old now — more than that, even, in some cases.  More importantly, though, the appeal of CORONA imagery for archaeology isn’t its up-to-the-minute technology, but almost the opposite: they give us a relatively low-cost, relatively high-resolution view of what these areas looked like 40 years ago.  Although I guess it’s still pretty “up-to-the-minute” compared to Tell Brak.

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