Tuesday, December 30, 2014

documents and other objects, flying around

I've been doing a bit of flying in and out of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport recently. During one trip I visited a branch of my bank, to ensure my debit card wouldn't be blocked in the U.S. I had heard that there were pneumatic tubes connecting several branches of a bank in the airport. But there were no signs of the system to be found. Until I opened up my email back in Maastricht that is ...

There was a message from Patryk Wasiak, a cultural historian I met in Copenhagen recently, at the History of Infrastructure conference. And with his note was a scanned picture from a 1981 edition of the "Przeglad Techniczny" (Technical Review). Patryk tells me that the image (below, and enlarged above) accompanied an article about the recently opened airport terminal, celebrating its technological marvels. The caption for the photo says the airport pneumatic tube system was used to transfer travel documents between old and new terminals.

There are so many hidden networks and infrastructures in airports to which travellers are oblivious. We mostly think about how our luggage arrives, or how to get to our gate. We are the moving bodies, maybe our luggage too. But there is a whole manner of different kinds of travelling occurring in these places. Documents from one building to the next in the 1980s. Money between bank branches. Animals in and out of quarantine, nearby nature reserves, crates and cages (see more in Susanne Bauer and colleagues' work on animal ecologies in airports). For non-places, there is a lot moving around behind the departure lounge drudgery and duty-free gloss!