‘ENVIRONMENTS’ – Katy Barrett

RESPONSE #3 Katy Barrett

The more time I spend on this project, the more I realise that I don’t always think about objects carefully and broadly enough. It is just so easy to frame your first interaction around an expectation and then continue to look along those lines. This month we were thinking about perceptions and sensations of space around objects, especially the problem of recapturing the ‘ordinary’ domestic space in the early-modern period.

Weather Map Printing Blocks, Galton Collection, UCL

Weather Map Printing Blocks, Galton Collection, UCL

This might not seem immediately relevant to my Weather chart printing plates from the Galton Collection, but it got me thinking more and more. I realised that I have only been considering the plates within what you might call the ‘printing space,’ as objects used to create a specific image on the page. Even then, though, I’ve only thought about the physical plates (thanks to Ludovic Coupaye’s stimulating session that started us off in September) and tried to imagine the paper product that they produced. But, I haven’t thought particularly about trying to reconstruct the space of the Times Newspaper printing shop where these would have been added into the frame of writing type. How significant where these first weather charts in that context? Did they require a change of organisation or timing that day? Were other pieces of text moved and edited to make room for them?

Nor have I thought about the plates in the context of physical weather, that oh-so ephemeral and sensory but quintessentially British environment. I’d like to think some more about how people experience weather, and experienced it back in the 1870s. Did the creation of these charts start a process of changing how people thought about weather; how they visualised and conceived of it? I know that for me there’s something very different about watching abstracted weather fronts move across a map on the television weather forecast and opening my front door to find it is raining or sunny. And yet I rely on those abstracted maps to help shape my encounters with the outside world.

Equally, I haven’t thought about the environments in which those first charts might have been experienced. Victorian gentleman opening their Times newspapers on the morning of 1st April 1875 will have been at their breakfast tables, on the train or early underground, in their all-male London clubs, or perhaps already at their desk. How did those environments affect how they then looked at this first chart and interpreted it? And did they reach for their umbrellas as they left for the day? Let alone, what the women of the house thought and responded.

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