The end of a year at university means one thing. A very, very long summer break. Given the nature of this lengthy vacation, I decided to give myself plenty to do, to keep myself out of mischief (and, more importantly, due to my aversion to hot weather, the sun), so I came up with the idea of this blog, amongst other activities.
I kicked off the summer with a trip to Geneva with one of my housemates. Admitedly this was before the end of term, but my museum visits there were in keeping with my plan of exploring more of the Ancient World. So my summer of Classics began at the Museum if Art and History in Geneva, specifically in their Ancient world gallery. I found the examples of damnatio memoriae in their display of Roman imperial busts very interesting, particulalry as one could almost instantly assess the reception/opinions towards each one, as some (the more unpopular individuals, they need no introduction) had suffered clear and brutal disfigurement and damage. The extensive numismatics diaplays were also interesting-so often coins are considered 'boring and dull', so to see such a large collection on prominent display was very exciting. I especially enjoy examinging coins (in particular those from the Roman republic/early imperial period), as it's fascinating to look at everyday examples of propaganda which were in plain sight.
Sadly I couldn't stay in Switzerland forever, but on my return to England I visited the Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum in London. Having been to both towns on a number of occasions, I felt this would be a fantastic chance to see artifacts from the sites up close (and in an airconditioned environment). What immediately struck me was the way in which the exhibition was arranged, as though one were walking through a Roman home. I really loved the frescoes displayed in the exhibition, not only for their stunning detail and colour work, but because they showed that the Romans loved to capture images of the world around them just as we do today, creating a powerful link between us and he citizens of the Ancient Roman world. The plaster casts of bodies at the end of the exhibition were very hard hitting, and even unexpected, following on from the familiar and comfortable artifacts on display throughout the rest of the exhibition. I think they really brought home the terrible reality of sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum. Although sites such as these provide us with so much insight into life as a Roman, the fact they are so well preserved, almost exactly as they were nearly two thousand years ago, could almost lead one to forget that these were more than just sources for wonderful archaeological finds and windows into a past we are trying to understand, but also places of horror, of loss, and of sadness. I feel that the casts provided a stern reminder of this reality, which made the exhibition as a whole far more serious and compelling.
Having returned home from London, I returned to my volunteering position at a local museum, Liverpool World Museum. I started my volunteering there last June, just afer the end of my a-levels, and I can honestly say it has been a fantastic experience. I've been able to work on the museum databases, updating amd adding records, in addition to handling and photographing artifacts. All very exciting foran Ancient World enthusiast! So far this summer, I've been involved with several tasks, such as, cataloguing images for the Ince Blundell sculpture collection (which has sparked an interest in Roma ash chests), photographing greek pottery and pottety sherds, dating lamps of all shapes and sizes, and checking the database records for coins dating from the late Roman republic through the imperial period. I really love museum volunteering, as it has really opened my eyes to a whole world of material culture, knowledge of which will be invaluable for my own studies. Furthermore, I have been able to work with artifacts from periods or places with which I am not hugely familiar, namely Greece, since most of my classical education so far had been centred on Rome. This experience of Greek history through the handling and study of material evidence will definitely come in useful in modules next year, which push me out of my Roman comfort zone.
Finally, I know this post has become rather long, I bought myself a notebook for ideas, not just Classics/ Ancient History related (although there are lots of those ideas in there), some of which may make an appearance on here....
With regard to the image, the staircase is a raher beautiful one I found in the Museum of Art and History in Geneva, and the desk with a bookcase behind it is from the antiquities office at the museum, where all the fun happens!