The Arts Council sounds off on … Atlas Obscura

By David Brensilver
atlas obscura
Before Joshua Foer wrote the best-selling book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Penguin Books, 2011), he and Dylan Thuras launched an incredibly useful project called Atlas Obscura, a Web-based resource that directs the intellectually curious to fascinating destinations one won’t find by consulting the typical tourism-related websites or guide books.

The user-generated content at is a gold mine for folks who are planning trips to cities in this country or beyond U.S. borders and want to experience something they won’t likely find on a postcard.

A search for New Haven on the Atlas Obscura website yields such stimulating destinations as the Cushing Brain Collection, located at the Cushing Center at Yale University’s Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library.

On “Obscura Day 2011,” Foer led a group of equally curious individuals on a tour of the collection. Through Atlas Obscura, he and others who seek out such compelling resources are continually introducing one another to similarly wondrous sites.

The next time I’m in Chicago, for instance, I’ll definitely pay a visit to Myopic Books. If I find myself in Vancouver, I’ll make a beeline for the Elizabethan hedge maze at VanDusen’s Botanical Garden. And if I get to Bolivia, I’ll take a very careful ride along North Yungas Road, which, for the danger it poses to travelers, has earned the nickname “Death Road.”

Atlas Obscura reminds us that fascination is nearby, wherever we are, and that the best resources for the intellectually curious are those curated by like-minded explorers.


David Brensilver is the editor of The Arts Paper. This is his opinion.


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