Solnit’s deified places “superimpose coordinates from two different kinds of space”, to borrow a phrase from Matthew Battles. On one hand, there is the hierarchical logic of cartography: parcels within counties within provinces, positions fixed by longitude and latitude. Intersecting this plane is a geographic dimension evoked emotionally, with location rendered through recollections and feelings. These planes are bolted together by bounding objects to form a multidimensional slide rule gauging one’s own history; an instrument calibrated specifically to the individual whose identity it describes.
In an essay subtitled How things in the world become sacred in a museum, Battles, former preparator for Chicago’s Field Museum, muses about all that is embodied within bounding objects. “The word ‘habit’ catches for me a sense of the shoddy assortment of qualities that knits an object into the fabric of things, weaving into one whole its social roles, the cultural codes it keys, and its whence-and-whither entanglements with deep time.” However, while still enmeshed within their contexts, these entanglements prove difficult to tease apart, and it falls upon the examiner to prepare, or “re-raw”, the objects. This pursuit is necessary because, “The stories they tell, the truths they were meant to exhibit and enact, are nowhere self-evident.”