I just got Everything Sings, Denis Wood’s painstaking, quirky portrait of Boylan Heights, a neighborhood in Raleigh. The book contains 39 maps of Boylan Heights showing everything from the mailman’s route to sidewalk graffiti to the night sky (my favorite) to the spread of absentee landlords across the country. These are not practical maps, as Ira Glass notes in his introduction, but they add affectionate depth to the neighborhood. Some, like the absentee landlord map, tell unexpected stories about the neighborhood’s past, present, and future. See teaser maps here and here.

Closer to home, two intrepid Washington DC residents are mapping another odd piece of local history: fallout shelter signs. Armed with a 1965 plan, they’re visiting former shelter sites to find the location and condition of remaining signs, with the eventual goal of historic landmark designation. Remember that not all landmarks are buildings, and learn more about the District Fallout project here.

To me, projects like these speak to one of the most exciting parts of preservation: the potential to uncover hidden stories–to make history tangible. To foster a sense of wonder within daily landscapes and provide a broader perspective on who walked before us, and what happened on these streets, in our buildings.

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