Scent & Memory


Illustration by James Taylor

Thanks to Colleen Walsh and the Harvard Gazette for this:

What the nose knows

Experts discuss the science of smell and how scent, emotion, and memory are intertwined — and exploited

Mexico, Mapping Memory

Blanton Museum of Art, for one more day, offers this:

Exactly 500 years ago, in August of 1519, an expedition led by the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortés began marching inland into Mexican territory. Just two years later, what today is Mexico City fell to an ethnically diverse army composed of both Spanish and local peoples from other cities, starting a long period of European colonization. This exhibition aims to expand our perspective on these events by featuring a selection of maps, known as Mapas de las Relaciones Geográficas, created by Indigenous artists around 1580. These unique documents show some of the visual strategies used by native communities for the endurance and perseverance of their cultures throughout the so-called colonial period and well beyond.

To learn more about the map click Teozacoalco Map. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for bringing this to our attention:


The Mapping Memory exhibition in at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, displays maps made in the late 1500s of what is now Mexico. They were created by indigenous peoples to help Spanish invaders map occupied lands. This watercolor and ink map of Meztitlán was made in 1579 by Gabriel de Chavez. Blanton Museum of Art

440 Years Old And Filled With Footprints, These Aren’t Your Everyday Maps


Pedro de San Agustín created this watercolor map of Culhuacán in 1580. He was a judge — a powerful figure in the town. “Before the conquest, nobles were the only ones trained as painters,” exhibit curator Rosario Granados explains. She notes that this map is made on bark paper, the traditional material used before the Spaniards arrived. Blanton Museum of Art

At the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, 19 maps, nearly 440 years old, are on display — and they look spectacular. “Works on paper are delicate so we’re only allowed to put them on display for nine months out of 10 years,” says Blanton Museum communications director Carlotta Stankiewicz.

The Mapping Memory exhibition contains work by indigenous mapmakers from the late 1500s. The maps demonstrate a very different sense of space than maps drawn by Europeans. They’re not drawn to scale; instead, they’re deeply utilitarian.

A map of Culhuacán, for example, shows rivers running straight, with tiny arrows in the middle, indicating which way they flow. The pathways curve like snakes, with footprints or hoofprints indicating whether the paths can be walked or ridden. Continue reading

Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul Is My Workplace


In the Tophane quarter, 1986. Credit Ara Guler/Magnum Photos

The third of three previous posts invoking Orhan Pamuk mentions an experience in a museum a couple years ago in Istanbul. I did not write much about it in that post because I did not know what to say, or if there was anything to say about how the museum affected me. But reading Orhan Pamuk’s words in the essay below about his friend, and the photographs that man took, evoked strong memory of the effect that museum had on me. It evoked a strong sense of the value of memory, in all its limits and even imperfections.

Just prior to that museum experience I had written a dozen posts about the work we had been doing in India since 2010, which was connected to work we began in Costa Rica many years earlier. I think what that museum visit put into focus for me was how, in our work crafting experiences with sense and sensibility, we were creating our own museums of innocence. Our mission is to create authentic, distinctive and valuable life experiences, to build profitable businesses around these, and then to direct the associated economic benefits to the conservation and prosperity of unique natural and cultural heritage and to the improvement of the quality of life of the local host communities. That work is about crafting memories, just as books, museums and photographs do in their own way. Seeing these pictures and reading these words reminds me of that:

‘I Like Your Photographs Because They Are Beautiful’

Orhan Pamuk remembers his friend Ara Guler, the great photographer, who lovingly captured Istanbul and its people.


A coffee bar in a Beyoglu arcade, 1958. Credit Ara Guler/Magnum Photos

Ara Guler, who died on Oct. 17, was the greatest photographer of modern Istanbul. He was born in 1928 in an Armenian family in Istanbul. Ara began taking photographs of the city in 1950, images that captured the lives of individuals alongside the city’s monumental Ottoman architecture, its majestic mosques and magnificent fountains. I was born two years later, in 1952, and lived in the same neighborhoods he lived in. Ara Guler’s Istanbul is my Istanbul. Continue reading

What Would I Read At Villa del Faro?


As a teen-ager, Marcel Proust filled out a questionnaire as part of a parlor game. His responses have experienced a startling afterlife. PHOTOGRAPH BY IMAGNO / GETTY

Seth’s post, followed by Jocelyn’s post, both reach me just after reading this fascinating short history on the so-called Proust questionnaire, which I first encountered in the back pages of Vanity Fair magazine when I had nothing better to do. I am reminded of two things: guilty pleasure reading, and actual reading of something other than news, news analysis, or long-form non-fiction–which are a mainstay of my contributions on this site.

I am reminded of a third thing: Amie’s marathon reading of Proust, and the view of this 3-volume set around our home for a long stretch of time. Those books that she would lug around were the sign of an unreformed, unrepentant student of literature, whose career started as a book editor in New York City, when she had nothing better to do.


I say that mainly to contrast what I did with my guilty pleasure reading time back then, and what she did with hers. I say that because in more recent times, especially the past six years in India, she has had something much better to do, and plenty of it to do, and I think we are all better for that. Which has me thinking: if I had the time, what would I read if I could just leave it all behind right now and land at Villa del Faro with nothing but books (and at least a couple changes of clothes, of course)? Would I find that Proust set Amie has in storage? As an amateur nostalgist with limited writing talent, I might choose those volumes as a self-help guide.

9780394711843I write on this site partly to share about events, people and places that I believe are worthy of others’ attention; but also for the sake of further reflection and sense-making of those. Patterns repeat; some people and places important once come back to be important again.  For example, nearly five years ago I was on my third of five extended periods of work in Baja California Sur.  It was on an earlier visit in 2008 that I had met Andy Murphy, then with WWF, with whom I became friends and then eventually more with our project in Ghana. Continue reading

Museums, Libraries, And An Innovative Hybrid



Museums, as well as libraries and other community institutions get a disproportionate share of our attention on this blog. When we see a random variation like the following, we cannot help but follow the trail (thanks to Jordan Kisner):

One recent Wednesday afternoon, a man wandered into a library on North Third Street in Brooklyn and asked how he could sign up for a library card. The young woman behind the counter smiled and explained that at this particular library there were no cards—or even traditional books. The Brooklyn Art Library, housed in a Williamsburg storefront with unfinished floors and exposed piping, is, instead, home to the Sketchbook Project, a collection of crowdsourced sketchbooks that is, according to its staff, the largest in the world. The project was founded in 2006, when Steven Peterman and Shane Zucker, two art students living in Atlanta, began mailing blank Moleskines to anyone who wanted one for a small fee, and then archiving whatever came back. Now anyone can pay twenty-eight dollars for a sketchbook, or sixty-three dollars for a digital membership, which means that their books will be scanned in full and archived online in a digital library. Continue reading

Memory Restoration

Normally we avoid posting on what can be viewed as corporate advertisement, but we have to applaud the use of technology to assist in the healing process after the devasting Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsumani in 2011. Thousands of lives were lost, and survivers suffered the additional trauma of losing their homes, including the photographic mementoes of their loved ones.

Ricoh used their expertise in office imaging equipment to coordinate an amazing effort of 518 employee volunteers to find, clean and digitize  418,721 photos, returning 90,128 pictures to the people who lost them.

Ricoh is now offering a glimpse of how this monumental effort was conducted for future reference. The company would be delighted “if this record is useful for improving awareness towards disaster prevention or reconstruction support activities after the event of a disaster,” it says. Continue reading

The Best Memories

Sighting Of The Day

Sighting Of The Day

Cardamom County receives guests of all ages who are enthusiastic about trekking, hiking and bamboo rafting as well as others who just like to relax in the beautiful ambiance of our property. Our privileged location across the street from the Periyar Tiger Reserve means a lot of overlap of fauna such as birds, butterflies and even monkeys between us, although obviously we don’t have any tigers on property! Continue reading

Growing up on a plantation

a house in spring valley credit ea marzarte -Raxa collective

A house on a coffee plantation in Spring Valley, Kumily, Kerala

My mother and her ten brothers and sisters were raised on a sugar cane plantation. I always wondered what it was like, growing up in a lush and remote environment. Hiking to the school bus in the early morning and being rocked to sleep by the astounding noise of nightly creatures. Playing hide and seek on a neverending playground. Continue reading

“Shipwrecked pictures” from the Albert Khan museum : can our community help identify these photographs ?

Back in 1912, french millionaire Albert Kahn hired Stéphane Passet to be a photographer for the monumental project Archives of the planet, an iconographic memory of societies, environments and lifestyles around the world. From 1909 to 1931, Albert Kahn  commissioned photographers and film cameramen to record life in over 50 countries. The Archives of the planet were a collection of 180,000 metres of b/w film and more than 72,000 autochrome plates, most of which are held at Museum Albert Kahn in Boulogne, close to Paris.

Autochrome was the first industrial process for true colour photography. When the Lumière brothers launched it commercially in June 1907, it was a photograhic revolution – black and white came to life in colour. Autochromes consist of fine layers of microscopic grains of potato starch – dyed either red-orange, green or violet blue – combined with black carbon particles, spread over a glass plate where it is combined with a black and white photographic emulsion. All colours can be reproduced from three primary colours. Some of the autochrome pictures available today are however unidentified, some happen to be of Bombay. Who among you in the Raxa Collective community can help locate these sites?

Continue reading

Building Memories With Pavilions

Since first realizing, back in the 1990s, that our business model is something we might call entrepreneurial conservation I have been obsessed with the idea of non-permanence as the ultimate game-changer.  With resorts in particular, if we were to argue that a property’s conservation area was the main purpose of the resort, then the resort itself would best fulfill that purpose if it could credibly disappear on a moment’s notice. A decade+ and a luxury tent camp revolution later (aka glamping) I am still working at variations on this idea.

My conversation with Chi-Chi yesterday was about one non-permanent structure we will build on a waterfront area to serve as the new base for our houseboat operations. The image above was one brainstorming topic of our conversation, the details of which do not matter so much as the ideas that followed and mixed with other lingering ideas. Continue reading