In an effort to relieve what can often seem like drudgery in the writing process, I sometimes take up little side projects. At one point during my graduate candidacy, I came across this thesis project by two U of M MArch students and loved the way they created the site map as part of the table top.
Since I have long been interested in integrating geographic knowledge into other realms of life, I fixed on doing a table project of my own. Fortunately, my wife had a plain pine table that was ripe for refinishing. The project ended up being the Ann Arbor neighborhood we lived in together after we got married.
This is a simple IKEA table and a wood burning knife (available at hobby and craft stores). The maps were Sanborn fire insurance maps of Ann Arbor from 1925, available from UMI (now proquest). After all was done, I gave it two coats of minwax polyurethane finish.
I started ambitiously in early 2007, then stalled out for several months as I took exams and traveled before I got to dissertation writing, finally finishing in a mad rush in late 2007.
Here is a detail of the Ann Arbor table.
Feeling good about my temporary city and having found another little table in need of refinishing, when I moved to Philly in the summer of 2010 I fixed upon another map project.
I got a bit overwhelmed for about two years, but now I’m picking the project back up. I tell students all the time that historians have the firmest foundation for knowledge in the academy and we have nailed the production of text as a means of communication. But reading archival documents and writing all day often leaves me longing for alternate forms of intellectual consumption and knowledge production. The often-cited desire to work with my hands is another dimension — not only to shift formats, but a format that is more physical and durable. Sometimes working on my bicycle can slake this thirst, but not always, so I’m back to it. More to come.