Monday, February 25

Cyclops Takes a Stake to the Eye

It's hard not to talk about what you do all day, so I'm sure a lot of what I end up posting here will be about what I spend most of my time doing--museum education. Usually people find it interesting to learn that museums (if they can afford it) have teachers. But considering museums are supposed to be educational institutions, a teaching staff makes perfect sense.

One of the regular teaching responsibilities we teachers have is keeping up with the monthly "Spotlight" objects. Every month, one object from the museum's collection is chosen to be "spotlighted" in a daily 15-20 minute gallery talk. The idea is to allow an opportunity for a more in-depth focus on one object. Spotlight talks are nice because the object changes every month, so it offers an opportunity to learn something new every month.

March's Spotlight object is a Etruscan pithos (a large storage jar) featuring the scene from The Odyssey where Odysseus blinds the cyclops Polyphemos. As you can imagine, a story about a man-eating cyclops taking a stake to the eye is a real crowd pleaser, so I think this is a fun object to feature. It's also nice to explore one object further because you never know what interesting trivia that may come up. For instance, with the pithos I learned something interesting about the myth of Pandora's box. As the story goes, Pandora was given a jar and instructed by Zeus to keep it closed, but she was unable to overcome her curiosity and opened it anyway. When she did, all of the evils of the world escaped from the jar. She was quick to close it again and managed to keep one element inside--Hope. Well, it turns out that the original Greek word used was "pithos" not "box." The 16th century CE mistranslation of "box" stuck, but nonetheless it was Pandora's pithos. So, if you ever find yourself on Jeopardy, remember--it was Pandora's pithos.

I am, if nothing else, a mine of useless information. Still, sometimes useless information has a way of becoming useful. For instance, if you ever find yourself stranded in an abandoned church in the Bavarian Alps during a blizzard, starving, searching for something edible and finding nothing but an old dirt encrusted flower pot and a daffodil bulb, you might find it very useful at that moment to know that daffodil bulbs are poisonous. For instance.


  1. I will surely keep that daffodil bit in mind. I very frequently find myself stranded in churches in the alps with nothing but a dead daffodil in a flower pot. Very frequently indeed.

  2. Hey, girl! Jenny (Fetters) Ballinger sent me your blog address. It is so nice to catch up on your life. Have a great day!