Launching Sunset Over Sunset: Seeing Urban History through the Lens of Ed Ruscha





Mar 11, 2024


6:00 EDT



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Join in the launch of Sunset Over Sunset, a new digital urban humanities project that uses street-view photographs of Los Angeles’s iconic Sunset Boulevard to uncover stories of everyday change in the postwar built environment.

In 1965, the artist Ed Ruscha drove a pickup truck up and down Sunset Boulevard, using an  automated camera to snap photographs of the street’s facades along the way. The result, famously published in accordion-printed form as Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966), was in some ways a precursor to today’s ubiquitous Google Street View. While Every Building on the Sunset Strip is relatively well known, less recognized is the fact that Ruscha repeated this photographic drive every few years, and over far longer distances than just the two miles of the Strip.

These images record the curious and innovative eye of a major American artist of the late 20th century, but also provide an unmatched record of small-scale urban change on one of the iconic streets in the United States. On Sunset Boulevard, changing natural and built environments trace local, national, and global histories of migration, economic transformation, architectural innovation, and cultural change. In Ruscha’s photographs lies a powerful archive of urban history, which Sunset Over Sunset seeks to reveal.

Sunset Over Sunset stitches together street-level views of ten miles of Sunset Boulevard–one per decade between 1966 and 2007–and joins them with address-level historical demographic data, occupancy records, and newspaper coverage that go far beyond the visible facade. The result is a revelatory and fun archival resource for understanding urban change across space and time. Visitors to Sunset Over Sunset can explore the data for themselves and read stories authored by experts who have used the website to understand the meaning of various changes along the boulevard—from the decline in the number of gas stations and banks, to the rise of Thai restaurants and mini-malls, and more. We invite you to visit Sunset Over Sunset to discover new stories of your own!

The virtual launch event will feature the co-directors of the project, the lead web designer and developer, and an author of one of the featured stories. We thank the many research assistants, advisory board members, web designers and developers, and story authors who have vitally contributed to the website. Finally, the project would not have been possible without a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the massive photographic digitization effort and overall support of the Getty Research Institute, which houses Ed Ruscha’s Streets of Los Angeles Archive.

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