Every day, Providence residents make public their personal desires, wishes, longings, and losses. We collected these declarations, in the form of posts to Craigslist and Facebook, as well as online obituaries and memorials. When viewed together as a card catalog, they become a form of vernacular urban poetry, evocative of shared struggles, concerns, and experiences. In the exhibition, we invite visitors to add their own longings to the catalog.
Special thanks to Darin Murphy at the W. Van Alan Clark, Jr. Library, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for loaning the card catalog used in the exhibition.
Because this project values personal experiences of the city, we created a collections form so that Providence residents could symbolically accession themselves into the City Archives collection. Visitors to the exhibition fill out the form, and in return receive a collections tag with a personalized accession number.
On our collections form we ask: “Do you have any stories/memories/experiences of the city that you would like to add to the archive?” Here are some of the answers we’ve received:
- Climbing down below the Eddy Street bridge
- Ghost tour of the East Side on Halloween
- Driving up Hope St. just to get Three Sisters Ice Cream
- Before they re-routed 95, watching a possum successfully cross the off-ramp onto North Main at 4 AM
- Mix Tape for the City on bsrlive.com
- I love that I live a few streets away from the house my great-grandmother lived in
- The GSB, only on a weeknight
- My car antenna got stolen the first week of classes
- Learning not to be afraid to parallel park
- Went to Lupo’s once. Saw Jack White.
What constitutes a map? What everyday items get left off official maps? What can personal maps of Providence reveal?
Our archive of mental maps provides a sharp contrast to official city maps by offering a variety of individual interpretations, complicating one’s understanding of Providence. These maps were collected from New Urban Arts students, our archival team, and other city residents from 2009 to 2011. In the exhibition gallery the maps become silkscreens viewed on a light table. By collecting silkscreens—the mechanism of creation—rather than the maps themselves, we value process as much as product.
In the exhibition we also ask visitors to contribute their special places to a large hand-drawn map of Providence in order to generate a collective mental map of the city.
We asked visitors to the exhibition the following question: “What are the smells you associate with Providence?” Here are some of the answers we received:
This photographic collection captures the landscape of urban details only visible through deep observation on a pedestrian scale. We documented six Providence neighborhoods—Atwells, the Jewelry District, Wayland, Wanskuck, Downtown, Upper South Providence—to highlight urban change that happens, not through major building projects, but through everyday choices by regular people.
In the exhibition, we invite visitors to sort and arrange the photographs to create their own versions of Providence’s streets.
On our collections form we ask: “What are the details that you notice on your everyday walk to work/school/around your neighborhood?” Here are some of the answers we’ve received:
- uneven pavement
- fallen leaves and overgrown trees
- the occasional flattened squirrel
- the way the tree roots warp the sidewalk
- a multitude of confusing one way streets
- terrible driving
- so many quirky home furnishing stores in Wayland
- contrast—blocks vary so much in their state of sketchiness
- lawn ornaments
- tiny roads, weird trees
- how Thayer Street has rapids running down it when it rains
- Squirrel Alley
- open gates
- the smell of food
- funny notes on stop signs
- there is a new nail salon across the street from the old nail salon, with a Christmas tree in the window
- a propensity of red bricks
- my neighbor’s license plate
- lamp posts
- colorful houses; inconsistent sidewalks