Urban Explorers: Archaeologists of the Modern City
When you walk or drive by a shuttered factory or other rusting, decaying industrial hulk in your city, do you notice it? If you do, do you just think, “urban blight”? Or do you think “there goes some history in need of documenting?” If the latter, you might be an urban explorer in the making. Keep in mind your new hobby would be illegal, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of intrepid souls.
Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer had an article on these determined individuals, who often risk life and limb (and ignore many a no-trespassing sign) to explore and document abandoned industrial buildings, from factories to power plants to former mental hospitals. The article was extraordinarily hard to find on the Philly Ink website, not appearing under the title used in the paper. If the link I provided doesn’t work, try searching at the Philly Ink website for “exploring abandoned industrial hulks”. Unfortunately, the photos that accompanied the newspaper text are not available. And the text available is only a condensed version of what was a well-written, fascinating, informative lengthy piece by staff write Joelle Farrell. I can’t imagine why they’ve given it such short shrift on the web site.
Nevertheless, there are web resources to make up for the lack! It turns out these urban explorers, like good archaeologists, are also documentarians – in some cases, providing for us the only photos and copies of salvaged documents from buildings long since destroyed. You can find links to famous Philly urban explorer Goddog’s photo galleries and Byberry site, to explorers’ sites featuring Pennhurst and Asbury Park, N.J., and to the e-zine Infiltration at this site provided by the Inquirer. Goddog’s site is just astonishing. If you have any taste at all for industrial photography you will love his work.
Some of these photos you look at and wonder, just how do we come to abandon so much? There is a sadness, a sense of missing presence, in many photos. I know what these people are doing is illegal – and yet, I think they are doing us a great service in documenting these spaces. I’m sorry I can’t share the whole article from the Inquirer with you but I hope you will enjoy looking at some of these websites. Maybe it will spur some more people to recognize the value in buildings like these and become involved in historical preservation in their cities (see for example the Preserve Pennhurst website).
Bunny Rock in Zuska’s Garden
Zuska is the kick-ass alter-ego of Suzanne E Franks. When not dispensing Zuska's wisdom, Suzanne can often be found gardening, reading, or having one of her thrice-weekly migraines.
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