Saturday, November 21

Artifact Handling

This fall our school program has been piloting a "multiple visit" curriculum, in which we work with one class of sixth graders over the course of two classroom visits and three visits to the museum, each session focusing on a different type of ancient art (frescoes, mosaics, and marble). Last Wednesday was the culmination of the program, and we returned to the school in order to facilitate an artifact handling session. Yes, that's right--we let sixth graders handle two thousand year old objects. With an introductory lecture on how to handle fragile objects, why it's so important to wear gloves, and the strategic placement of pillows, it's actually not as insane or nerve-wracking an experience as it sounds.

While some museums have what are called "study collections" that are kept for scholars and students to study and examine, we did not bring artifacts from the museum. It turns out the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) has what they call an "Art and Artifact Collection" that they were willing to make available to the students in our program. They provided a selection of artifacts (mostly Roman terracotta oil lamps, strigils, and styli) and we facilitated the handling and talked to the students about the objects and how they were made and used in the ancient world. It was really a pretty neat experience. I know the kids were jazzed about it, although I don't think they understood just how special it was that they had this opportunity to handle real artifacts.
A student and I examine an ancient Roman oil lamp. 
Below is a picture of the oil lamp my group of kids worked with--they were given a worksheet of questions to answer, which prompted them to try and figure out on their own what it was made of, what it might have been used for, and who might have used it. The kids in my group were very sharp. They eventually figured out our object was a lamp made of clay. Not too bad for three sixth graders who just started studying ancient history this year! The credit goes to their teacher, of course, but I'd like to think all of the time they spent in the galleries with educators over the course of their three visits at the Villa made a difference too.

Roman terracotta oil lamp with an image of the goddess Minerva. 

Friday, November 20

New Office Digs

Over the past week my fellow teachers and I were relocated into some new office real estate. Since I started at the Villa, I've been sitting in a desk against the wall under the exit sign. This week I got to move downstairs into a snazzy new office digs with about three times the space as my little desk against the wall.

My old space--all packed up and ready to go.

As a lover of books, for me the best thing about my new work area is the five bookshelves that come with it. Even the dreariest work space can be made to feel homey if you add enough books. My new location also has the added benefit of walls, which makes it easier to be productive. Also, with the "out of sight, out of mind" work place principal, disappearing into your lair for significant amounts of time and then reemerging makes it seem like you must have been diligently working all that time. Right?

My new location also comes with these lovely adjustable entryway bookshelves. In case you can't tell, the theme is kmt Srjt ("Little Egypt")--appropriate, given my Illinois and Egyptology connections. Plus, let's face it: I have a lot of Egypt stuff, so it's not that difficult for me to pull off.

Since I now have the luxury of space, I have my bookshelves organized into categories: Egyptology, ancient languages and academic journals, Mesopotamia and the "rest" of the ancient world, and museums and gender issues. It's kind of an eclectic assembly of subjects, but they're the ones I work in most frequently, so they suit my specific needs quite well.

A new desk and bookshelves may not seem like something exciting enough to write home about, but for me the more inviting and homey the workspace, the easier it is to be there. Besides, who doesn't like a little change of scenery every now and then? I will certainly not be shedding any tears over the loss of my place below the exit sign!

Tuesday, November 10

Fall Back

I'm not sure why, but every year the "fall back" time change is always somewhat depressing to me. You would think that extra hour of sleep would make it something to look forward to each fall, but I'm not a fan of leaving work in the dark. There's something inherently exhausting about leaving home just as the sun's coming up and returning long after it's gone down. Eric returned from his globe-trotting trip over a week ago. It's nice to have him back, but my month of singleness turned out to be kind of a bust. Shortly after he left I came down with that monster of a cold that's been making the rounds, so I had only about a week to truly exploit my freedom. One thing I already knew but was able to confirm during my dear husband's absence is that without a male in the house there are almost no housekeeping duties. Within minutes of his return the place was wrecked, but I forgave him because he brought me Godiva chocolates and a stuffed hippo.

My good fortune was short-lived. Not long after Eric got back I slipped on a wet patch on the bathroom floor and took a spectacularly awkward fall, busting my big toe and leaving me with a huge bruise on my leg. I still can't put any weight on my toe after over a week, and it has been both annoying and tiring having to limp all around the Villa. The staff areas are not designed very well for anyone who has a hard time getting around--there are stairs everywhere. The swelling and bruising are improving, but I still feel like a walking (or rather, limping) testament to my own clumsiness.

This week is packing week at work. We're going through an office version of musical chairs at the end of the week, so I've been packing up my workspace. The move is definitely an upgrade in my case. I'll be saying so long to a corner desk under the emergency exit sign and moving into my own spacious cubicle. It will have about three times the space my current workspace has, so I'm looking forward to settling in to my new digs. I'll be sure to post some pictures of the new space once I'm all moved in.

Sunday, November 1

Riley's at Los Rios Rancho

I had another wonderful autumn outing this year at Los Rios Rancho with friends. For me it really is worth the drive over to Yucaipa to get a taste of the fall season that I used to get at home in Illinois every year. Pumpkin patches, orchards, roasted corn, genuine BBQ, cider, homemade apple pie, and a cute little country store all come together to work their magic. I'll never quite be able to forgive Southern California for its almost total lack of an autumn season, but thankfully the surrounding mountains help make up for the deficiency. All things considered, it was a great day and a very good way to kick off November.

The sign reads, "Rock flume, circa 1909."

Trust me, they use the phrase "corn maze" lightly.

All of us: Joe, Debra, me, German, Melissa, Amy, and Devi.