The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire


The building blocks of history are events. In a way, events are like shells on a beach: tens of thousands wash up on the sand with every tide. The historian's task is to collect: to recognize a pattern or thread of order in the chaos of colors and shapes. Once we have collected enough, we determine a sequence. We arrange them so that others can see what we see. In so doing we build narratives. We uncover insights. We build the middle ground between remembering and discovering.

Despite our obsession with place, we are historians at heart. And we know, deep down, that time matters as much as space.

And so we build timelines. Ours are nowhere near as monumental as Sebastian Adams' Illustrated Panorama of History (above) or as ornate as James Cox's Peacock Clock (which Empress Catherine would have described as Empress Catherine II's Peacock Clock), but we very much appreciate the ambition of the former and the playful - even ironic - message of the latter.

The Peacock Clock celebrates the idea that even something as "simple" as linear time can take a surprisingly complex form.

But there is a twist built into that magnificent design. For even though they are surrounded by the splendor of finely wright precious metals, the essential measures of human life - the hours and minutes of the day - reside in the humblest of places. Take this 3-minute tour of the clock to find out where time is kept on the clock.

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