Saturday, June 11, 2016

The unheard whispers of history as we move through spaces

I find more and more often, as the years advance, some history or story of a place that I used to frequent and was ignorant of at that time. When I was an undegraduate student at Georgetown University, I used to run the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

I am very interested in history. Having lived in England, which is crisscrossed with canals, I was aware of the role canals played in the early industrial revolution and the role they played as one of the first instances of manmade infrastructure enabling high volume low cost bulk transportation. That history is less well known here in the US but we have our own share of canals here as well. All of which I knew back then in 1978. In going to Georgetown University, I was unaware in advance that it was adjacent to the C&O Canal so that was a pleasant discovery. I spent many mornings and afternoons running the C&O, particularly in the Spring and Fall.

This morning, I came across the story of Mary Pinchot Meyer via Ann Althouse's "Why don’t you leave suburbia for once — come and see me — either here — or at the Cape next week or in Boston the 19th." I was completely unaware of this woman and these conspiracy theories. Some things get clearer with the passage of time. Sometimes they seem to get murkier.

From Mary Pinchot Meyer in Wikipedia.
Mary Eno Pinchot Meyer (October 14, 1920 – October 12, 1964) was an American painter living in Washington D.C. At the time of her death, her work was considered part of the Washington Color School and was selected for the Pan American Union Art Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires. She was married to Central Intelligence Agency official Cord Meyer from 1945-1958, and she was linked romantically to the late President John F. Kennedy after her marriage to Meyer. Rumors and tabloid press reports of her affair with Kennedy were confirmed by her late brother-in-law, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, in his 1995 autobiography A Good Life.

Meyer was shot to death on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath on October 12, 1964, three weeks after the release of the Warren Commission Report, whose conclusions Meyer allegedly challenged. The timing of her killing and the effort by CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton to retrieve Meyer’s diary immediately after her murder have prompted investigation of possible CIA involvement in her death. The African American man accused of her murder, Ray Crump, Jr., was acquitted at trial in July, 1965. Her murder remains officially unsolved.
Read the whole complex tale.

Twenty-four years later, I was running exactly where Meyer was murdered, completely unaware of either that event or the link to Kennedy. And now, thirty-four years after that, I learn of the coincidence of which I was unaware at the time.

As knowledge is digitized and as virtual and augmented reality devices develop, perhaps we will get to the point where we will be able to don devices and, as we walk a street or hike a trail, or stroll a hallway, we will be able to have a heads-up display of crimes past, sordid stories, great speeches, battles, inventions, discoveries, etc that were delivered at those locations. Not omniscient knowledge but perhaps greater awareness of context.

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