On my walk from the commuter rail station to Tufts University the other day, I was struck by a kind of instant stage set or living history environment or nostalgic theme park created by an organic food delivery truck trailer parked behind the Porter Square Shopping Center in Cambridge. The owner of the company and his mom were both featured on the side of the trailer, not an uncommon strategy for organic and family/local food producers as ways to differentiate themselves from more anonymous or purely commodified supermarket food.
What made this really interesting, though, was the fact that the back of the shopping center is itself painted with heritage-oriented murals depicting various periods of the neighborhood's existence. Images of the mansion, cottages, and gardens that pre-dated (and were torn down to build) the plaza decorate the architecturally undistinguished back view, along with portraits of neighbors and some generic "olde-tyme" street views.
And more interesting yet, for the purposes of thinking about how historical materials, narratives, and knowledge are encoded in contemporary landscapes, is the plaque historicizing the murals themselves.
~ Cathy Stanton