Missing Places is an oddly compelling exercise in citizen journalism (or should that be citizen archaeology?) that tracks vanishing history, vacant lots, and “forgotten” places in Houston.
The site describes the project as follows:
The Museum for Missing Places (MMP) is a public information project that addresses contemporary issues of urban place identity through the eyes and actions of city residents. Using interactive exhibits, the Museum proposes alternative ways of mapping a city in the context of rapid and uncontrolled urban change and the uncertainty of enduring architectural landmarks.
Situated in Houston, Texas, the Museum is–before all else– a response to a city whose urban development has long been distinguished paradoxically by the impermanence of its architecture rather than its fixity. Houston is literally defined by geographic disruption– the buildings of the city are quickly altered, roadwork and redirected streets are the norm and volatile weather continuously pummels the city, to cite just a few examples. These disruptions create a city of revolving contradictions and perpetual discontinuity, and the job of making sense of this city is left to a scattered population.
Yet an urban life does persist behind the fragmented edifice of the city and the Museum for Missing Places believes that an appropriate way of understanding Houston is through the accumulated perceptions of the city’s residents and a catalog of the places they inhabit. Through exhibits which rely on public participation, the Museum hopes to suggest ways of mapping the city that leverage the diverse observations, descriptions and insights of city residents. The exhibits of the Museum for Missing Places are designed to support this mission by surveying Houston residents about the ways they relate to their local surroundings. In a city that changes as continuously as Houston, where what’s new today may be gone tomorrow, the MMP seeks to chart the shifting terrain of the city by privileging the countless perspectives of lived experience.
I found out about the project via a sign posted last week on a vacant lot near HCC in midtown. Laurence Simon writes that signs have also been popping up along the less-than-world-class urban blight along stretches of the light rail.