Category Archives: XStory

Mapping: Installation Geography

A core conceit of my project Through Various Hazards has been the idea that the physical site and the architectural form of Fort Humboldt are iconic representatives for the larger historical questions I’m asking and the historical dynamics I’m pointing to.  As I was visiting sites in Eureka, trying to decide where and how I wanted to install the series of expanded dioramas, I was struck by the potential of merging the layout of the fort itself and the geography of the city.

Map of Eureka, CA.
1861 Map of the Fort Humboldt grounds.

I took the fort layout into Photoshop and overlaid it onto the city.


Based on the location of the original fort buildings, I determined sites for placing markers/clues about the project and also the installations themselves.

Proposed placement of installations (large icons) and markers (small icons).

I felt this was a successful prototype of the layout, and discussions at the Quick & Dirty Thesis Show allowed me to develop a second version that I think is much stronger.


The markers have been removed (no need for them to be represented here).  The installation sites have been shifted and, while they still correspond to a metonym of the fort layout in terms of geography, they now also reflect it figuratively as well.

Starting from North to South, West to East:

  • Woodley Island, Duluwat Historical Marker (Violence, Memorial)
  • Civic Center: City Council Building, Superior Court, Times Standard newspaper (Politics & Media)
  • Wabash Ave, entryway to the city  (Everyday life)
  • Samoa Peninsula, former reservation site for overflow prisoners from Fort Humboldt
  • Fort Humboldt
  • Mouth of the Elk River + Hikshari’ Trail (Indigenous life, Constant flux)
  • (Ulysses S.) Grant Elementary School (Education/Ignorance)

My vision is to have this map as a physical object and guide in the style of the many years of Fort Humboldt Brochures/Pamphlets, which I will distribute to coffee shops, the library, etc.  It will also be the centerpiece of the project website (which Sam Lavigne reminded me–smart–needs to be mobile-first).  This will be a tool for seeing how each installation is part of a larger endeavor, and navigating between the distributed sites.

Trip to Eureka: Installation Sites

March 14-18, 2016, I traveled to Eureka, CA, to begin the on-the-ground process of re-engaging with the community around the town’s history.

As I traversed the city and surrounding areas for meetings and research, I continually scouted potential installation sites.  I had various ideas, from placing something at all the entryways to the Eureka (where the highway meets the city from the North & South, at marinas and bridges), to randomly setting up pieces for passersby to encounter.

Some of the primary sites that I’ve landed on as a shortlist are:

The Mouth of the Elk River/Hikshari’ Trail

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This area on the southwest corner of Eureka was called Hikshari’ by the Wiyot Tribe, and was home to at least one Wiyot village.  I plan to install a diorama of the fort here that will dissolve as the tide rises of the course of a day.

The Eureka City Council Chambers, 6th & K Streets

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Located on the edge of downtown/oldtown, this intersection are hub of civic life. The Times Standard building, housing the city’s newspaper (descendant of the Humboldt Times, which was the active paper in the days of Fort Humboldt), is across the street.  The Superior Court of California, Humboldt County, is a block away.

Grant Elementary School, Oak Street & Campton Drive

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Named after President Ulysses S. Grant, Fort Humboldt’s most famous resident, this elementary school is on the southwest edge of Eureka proper.  As a member of the local school district, and a K-5 program, this is where many Eureka children will get their first and only exposure to California History.

The National Historic Register Marker for Duluwat/Gunther/Indian Island

Duluwat is the most sacred site in this lives of the Wiyot people.  For most of their existence a number of villages were situated along it, and it was the gathering place for the World Renewal Ceremony, which brought together scores of people from across different tribes.  In 1860 it was the epicenter of the Indian Island Massacre.  Then, until the present day it was inaccessible to the Wiyots. The city of Eureka has sold or granted portions of the island back to the tribe.  It is not publicly accessible, but there is a National Historic Marker on neighboring Woodley Island that looks directly toward Duluwat (seen in the background).

The Samoa Peninsula

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After the Indian Island Massacre, the small group of survivors of the Wiyot Tribe, along with American Indians from other tribes captured or rounded up during the years of conflict during the 1860s, were stockaded at Fort Humboldt.  When conditions became too dire and too many people were dying (they were living in conditions comparable to the Atlantic slave ships), then were moved across Humboldt Bay to the Samoa Peninsula and kept there until they could be shipped north to Klamath Reservation.  

Wabash & Broadway

This location would not be ideal for an installation that required close-up inspection or viewing for a duration of time, but a static work could do well in this spot, and because it is the site of the most prominent “welcome to Eureka” billboard, it would be in conversation with the way the city tries to present/portray itself.

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Computational Portraiture: Survivors Project

Earlier this semester, I took Computational Portraiture, taught by James George and Alexander Porter of Specular.  Alexander introduced me to an elegant workflow to build architectural models from photographs in Google Sketchup.  Sketchup was acquired by Google for the purpose of crowdsourcing 3D renders to populate their Google Earth maps, laid down upon global land surveys and data that they already had access to for terrain and overhead views of geography and human imprints.  Google has moved on, but the process is still available and can be applied for other purposes.

In my case, the purpose is beginning to recreate the buildings that made up Fort Humboldt, Eureka, CA, almost all of which only exist in archival photographs.

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The first step is using Sketchup’s “Match Photo” tool.
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Sketchup suggests perspective lines, which can be adjusted, forming guides from which to model.

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Sketchup’s particular utility is that these models can be generated fairly quickly, to a good degree of accuracy, and then there is a simple function to reproject the texture back onto the model, so you end up with a convincing, if stylized, 3D version of the structure.

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That version can then be taken into any other software.  In my that was Unity, to construct a VR portrait.

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Buildings placed in Unity, used to create a context for a portrait of survivors of the 1860 Indian Island Massacre in Eureka, CA.

My subject was the survivors of the 1860 Indian Island Massacre, most of whom ended up at Fort Humboldt ostensibly for their own protection.  They were literally corralled there in destitute conditions until they were eventually moved outside of the area to distant reservations.  Of those limited survivors, an even smaller set have any existing representation in the form of photographs.  I used what I could find to shed light on them.

Experiments: FaceGen

One of the key design gestures I need to explore technically is how I might generate figurines from archival images.

Cement Eclipses by Isaac Cordal

This might look like handmade sculptures or puppets, or 3D models.  If I go the 3D model route, I’d like to utilize the photographs themselves as the starting point.  To begin trying this out, I have been running some portraits through FaceGen, a software for converting 2D facial images to 3D facial models that Rebecca pointed me towards (and is also a resource shared by James George and Alexander Porter in Computational Portraiture).


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A young Ulysses S. Grant

For my purposes, this may be an adequate tool.  The face is surprisingly faithful to the original photograph.  I will need to keep testing.

Jerry James, a survivor of the 1860 massacre on Indian Island in Eureka, CA

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