…stays this woman from the swift completion of her appointed museum research visit.
Last weekend I had the privilege to go down to Baltimore and examine a couple of Etruscan cremation urns at Johns Hopkins University, which happens to have a wonderful archaeological collection. Campus had closed down for the day due to snow (as a Boston resident who survived last winter, I had to laugh at a campus shut down over 2-3 inches of accumulation), but the curator-conservator I was meeting lived within walking distance, so we were able to go ahead with the visit. We had the entire museum collection, research, and storage space all to ourselves for the day. And it was a glorious nerd fest of object viewing and discussion. If you have yet to visit the collections at Johns Hopkins, please do so. The gallery installation is wonderful, and their storage and conservation are to die for.
My dissertation included a database of 829 of these Hellenistic period urns with reclining folks on the lids, but ever since I finished, more and more examples keep popping out of the woodwork. There are TONS in American collections that have yet to be gathered together and surveyed, and it has become a life goal of mine to get through them, urn by urn.
As much as I complain about being in academia and having to make things work in a difficult job market, days like last Monday remind me why I do this. Without snark or exaggeration, I can say I’m at my most enthusiastic and excited when I get to spend quality time with objects like this and sleuth around for more information on them. Three hours flew by, and a new article on these urns, along with scientific examination of the preserved pigments, will be on the way later this year.
I am able to afford little trips here and there like this, and I am fortunate that I can. No, I don’t have a research budget. Yes, I took a holiday to do this, paid for a plane ticket, etc., but I regret nothing. Do I do it for career reasons? Sure. But my primary reason? I love it.