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Michael Barnes

More on Austin Traffic, Emma Lou Linn, Austin Anniversary, Texas Images, Texas Maps

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landoffice2Five very recent stories from this desk seem to have caught the readers’ imagination. Happy holidays!

TRANSIT: Is traffic altering the way that Austin socializes? (More than 3,500 social media shares so far.) “A gilt-edged card slides out of a hand-addressed envelope. You have been invited to the social event of the season. Then your heart drops: “Event starts promptly at 6 p.m.” Not in Austin, it doesn’t. Not unless you live walking distance from the venue. Luckily for your social columnist, he can exercise that option often. Otherwise, one faces a heroic battle against almost insuperable traffic. For some party guests, this fight can turn into a lengthy campaign. A host and a guest can reside as far as 75 miles apart and still claim to live in the Austin area.” http://shar.es/13VlZe

SCHOOL: The truly remarkable life of Emma Lou Linn. (More than 700 social media shares so far.) “In 1975, a divided Austin City Council considered renaming 19th Street after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Newly minted Council Member Emma Lou Linn — only the second woman, after Emma Long, to serve in that capacity, although she was soon joined by Margaret Hoffman and Betty Himmelblau — listened as J.J. Seabrook, president emeritus of what was then Huston-Tillotson College, spoke eloquently in favor of the proposal. Then he collapsed. “As he fell to the ground, I ran to him and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” Linn, now 78, told one historian. “Unfortunately, Seabrook died. But a photographer snapped a photo and it circulated nationally! That brought me great praise from many groups, but threats from a few.” http://shar.es/13VZmk

 HISTORY 1: Mesmerizing images of early Texas. (More than 300 social media shares so far.) “The man stares into the camera with dignified authority. His dark hair is brushed back unfussily. A large, shiny bow around his neck matches the sheen of his loose jacket. This image from the mid-19th century — discolored by time but crisp in every detail — is among the most compelling in a small exhibit of early photographs at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in the state Capitol complex. The portrait is all the more intriguing because the subject’s name is unknown. “We guess that he was a man of some affluence and prominence,” says John Anderson, preservation officer at the archives. “We would love to have some solid leads on who he is. This is a full-plate ambrotype, which would have been relatively expensive for its time, though more affordable than a daguerreotype the same size.” http://shar.es/13VZ5n

HISTORY 2: Unearthing map gems at the Texas General Land Office. (More than 200 social media shares so far.) “With great care, they roll out the oversized drawer. Inside is a rare pearl: An enormous 1879 map of Texas. Composed by draftsmen Charles W. Pressler and A.B. Langermann for the Texas General Land Office, it was rolled up and unrolled countless times to help answer official questions about land rights. So in 2000, this tattered map was sent to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass., for revival. This is the same company that preserved Lewis and Clark’s journals and the Emancipation Proclamation.The conservators there painstakingly reconstructed this essential document. “Now it’s flat, that’s great,” says Susan Smith Dorsey, director of technical services for the Land Office. “What do you do with it? So we bought the largest map cabinet available so it could be housed flat.” http://shar.es/13Vwgm

HISTORY 3: Happy 175th birthday, fair city. (More than 100 social media shares so far.) “Happy dodransbicentennial. Or if you must, septaquintaquinquecentennial. No matter which multisyllabic term you chose, come Dec. 27, Austin turns 175. That seems like a long stretch of time. Yet resident Frances Sneed Simnacher, interviewed here earlier this year, has lived through 102 — or 58 percent — of those years. We’re a relatively young city, if a resident — still living in the house where she was born, east of Montopolis — can recall more than half of its collective civic history.The Austin History Center toasts the 175th anniversary with a small exhibit that takes Austin “From Cabins to Skyscrapers.” It remains on view at the center’s handsome Beaux-Arts building at Guadalupe and West Ninth streets through March 22.” http://shar.es/13VwYt