The October Almanac

ARTS & LETTERS

October 3, ninety of John James Audubon’s original watercolors for his Birds of America series of illustrations will leave their home in the NewYork Historical Society for the first time since they were acquired from the artist’s widow in 1863. This sampling from the artist’s major work will be on view at the National Gallery of Art until the beginning of next year, after which the exhibit will travel to Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Memphis, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco before returning to New York in April of 1996. The society’s entire collection of 435 Audubon watercolors will be reproduced in an accompanying book. 27, the Municipal Art Society of New York celebrates its hundredth birthday in Grand Central Station, one of the buildings it has preserved. The society’s support of the Zoning Resolution of 1916 paved the way for laws protecting landmarks in other cities. The society helped establish the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the New York Landmarks Law, a model for such legislation nationwide.

GOVERNMENT

October 1, federal fiscal year 1994 begins. 2, the last day to file new claims for the extended unemployment benefits that Congress passed last March as an “emergency” measure—the only major component of the President’s $16.3 billion economic stimulus package to survive. An extra 20 to 26 weeks of coverage was provided for those who have exhausted their normally alloted unemployment compensation. A small part of the $5.8 billion needed for the extra benefits was offset when Congress decided to forgo one of its own scheduled cost-of-living pay increases. 4, the Supreme Court begins a newterm today, as it has on the first Monday of every October since 1917. This term Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes her place as the nation’s 107th Supreme Court Justice, replacing Byron R. White.

EXPIRING PATENT

No. 3,985,102. “Dryer apparatus for hairs of pet dogs consisting of a transparent box having a door at its front side, and a lid member thereabove provided with dryer apparatus including a heater, fan and motor, said dryer apparatus further comprising a plurality of vertically aligned apertures in the center portion of the door, for different heights of dogs so that the nose of the dog can slightly project.”

THE SKIES

October 15, New Moon, which comes a scant 10 hours after the Moon reaches its monthly perigee (the point in its orbit closest to Earth), meaning that very extreme high and low tides can be expected. 24, the waxing Moon lies to the north of Saturn, the only bright planet visible this evening. 30, Full Moon, also known this month as the Hunter’s Moon and, among the Cheyenne, the Moon When Water Freezes. 31, at 2:00 A M., Daylight Saving Time ends. Set your clocks back an hour the night before and enjoy an extra hour of sleep, the more delicious for being wholly unearned.

Q & A

Why do museums make people so tired?

“Museum fatigue” is a term familiar to museum designers, who have been studying the phenomenon for at least 75 years. In most cases it cannot simply be chalked up to boredom: museum fatigue has been found to set in after 30 to 45 minutes regardless of how engaging the exhibit is. Instead it is thought to be a natural response to being overloaded with information, especially in unstructured, openended situations. Museum designers are trying to combat this problem by making the physical layout of the building very clear at its entrance, and by dividing large, palatial spaces into orderly progressions of smaller rooms. Standing and walking on marble floors exacerbates the problem—all other things being equal, visitors will stay longer in a museum if its floors are carpeted or made of wood, and so exhibition floors are also receiving attention—but at least one study has shown that viewers tire quickly even when they are shown paintings while seated.

HEALTH & SAFETY

October 1, observational studies of nontraditional medical treatments begin across the country today under a grant program sponsored by the new Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. The OAM will evaluate the long-term efficacy of and patient satisfaction with treatments such as acupuncture, acupressure, herbalism, homeopathy, chiropractic, hypnosis, biofeedback, nutrition therapy, and relaxation. Unlike many of their European colleagues, most U.S. physicians have resisted these therapies, some of which date back thousands of years, and until now there has been scant scientificinvestigation of them. Patients have been considerably more open-minded: a study earlier this year found that a third of the 1,539 Americans surveyed had used some form of alternative medicine during the previous year (usually without telling their physicians), and it estimated that in 1990 Americans spent nearly $14 billion on unconventional therapies, most of which was not reimbursed by insurance companies. In preparation for the program, NIH last spring sponsored workshops on writing grant proposals geared toward alternative-medicine practitioners, who in many cases have had little experience with the grant process.

75 YEARS AGO