1996 volume 28(3) pages 429 – 452

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Crang M, 1996, "Envisioning urban histories: Bristol as palimpsest, postcards, and snapshots" Environment and Planning A 28(3) 429 – 452

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Envisioning urban histories: Bristol as palimpsest, postcards, and snapshots

M Crang

Received 17 October 1994; in revised form 10 April 1995

Abstract. This paper is an attempt to juxtapose a variety of ways in which a city's history can be portrayed by working through various forms through which the history of Bristol has been envisioned. First, I hope to use the concept of the palimpsest from historical geography as a stage on which other ways of portraying the city can be interrogated. These other envisionings I subsequently stage are the visions bound up in touristic sights, that is in the pictures used in and created by heritage displays; and the 'dispersed memory' of archive pictures, principally the Reece Winstone archive of Bristol. By studying the connections and disjunctures in this triptych I hope to suggest the importance and complexity of technologies used to envisage the city. I try to suggest that pictures of the city cannot be used as naive documents to illustrate the passage of time -- despite how often they are used to do this. Different senses of historicity are manufactured through the space - times created by different processes of envisioning the city. I suggest the interlinkage of these technologies echoes through a specifically urban 'picturesque' photography that coalesces a sensitivity to the passage of time with a detailed cognisance of the city in visual depictions of Bristol.

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