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Historically Insignificant

Throughout the history of mankind, there have been many significant milestones that have moved the species forward. These include the discovery of fire, and being able to control it; the invention of the wheel, the realization that the Earth was not the center of the universe, and the discovery of electricity. Another milestone is the discovery of oil. Every single human being on the planet is touched by oil; be it by transportation, or heating oil. But also from the by-products that oil has wrought; including plastics, nylon, synthetic rubber, and a myriad of other products. Although petroleum has been in use for thousands of years – in one form or another – it was some time in the middle of the 19th century that a process to distill, or refine, kerosene was developed. Kerosene provided a more economical alternative to whale oil. It was this refining process that would help drive the industrial revolution, transforming the use of coal-fired steam engines to more economical and more powerful diesel engines. Gasoline is the most commonly used by-product of petroleum, or the more widely used term, crude oil. Crude oil is simply petroleum that hasn’t been refined.
This project is a photographic journey into the history of one such location where petroleum refining once took place – in the early part of the twentieth century. This site was in use as an oil refinery for just twelve years. It was repurposed for a short time in the mid-twentieth century to refine a heavy metal, (yttrium). No commercially viable yttrium was produced. Following this period, the site was used for various industries, until it was abandoned due to environmental concerns in the early 1980’s. Since then, this place has fallen into a state of disrepair and deterioration and became a haven for vandals and graffiti artists.
The title of this project is Historically Insignificant. This comes from a historical preservation study that was conducted in 2009. I contend that although the site may not be eligible for preservation, due to its condition and contamination; it is of historical significance because of the activities that have taken place here over the last one hundred years. From the various fuels and oils that were produced, through the yttrium that wasn’t. Into the years it was used for repairing the automobiles that used the very same output that was produced here. Above all else, the most important aspect of this whole project is to serve as a reminder that although this site is now abandoned and dilapidated, there were people who worked here. There were people who spent their lives here. There were people who lived here, created their art here; and yes, there were people who lost their lives here. This leads me to ask, “How is this historically insignificant?”

Posted December 28, 2012 by docthissen

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