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Reading the Accidental Archive: Architecture, Ephemera, and Landscape as Evidence of an Urban Public Culture

Joseph Heathcott
Winterthur Portfolio
Vol. 41, No. 4 (Winter 2007), pp. 239-268
DOI: 10.1086/523019
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/523019
Page Count: 30
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Reading the Accidental Archive
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Abstract

This article examines the ephemeral rubbish of one middle‐class family in early twentieth‐century St. Louis, the interior and exterior design of their home, and the broader social and physical landscape they inhabited. The author treats this interrelated set of artifacts, lying in repose at varied scales, as evidence of ongoing transformations in urban public culture in the American city from the 1890s through the 1920s. While the middle class increasingly defined urban public culture through their social performance, civic participation, and commercial connectivity, a close reading of artifacts reveals tensions between their upward aspirations and limited means.

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