You know you’re a total geek when you actual tear-up in the face of ancient artifacts. This happened twice to me in the past week.
The first time occurred while I was at SIBA, the trade show for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in Norfolk, VA. I was there to moderate a historical fiction panel with authors, Tosca Lee (The Legend of Sheba), Bruce Holsinger (A Burnable Book), and Julia Elliott (The Wilds). My geek self loved that I “had to” read their books (I mean really, twist my arm) in preparation for the panel. But that wasn’t what got me all choked up.
At SIBA while chatting with Scholastic rep, Charlie Young–one of the warmest and nicest people ON THE PLANET–he mentioned that he had visited the Chrysler museum earlier in the day and that they had a nice Egyptian collection. Did I want to go later? (The museum was open until 10 that night.)
So, after a lovely dinner with fellow Scholastic author Natalie Lloyd (A Snicker of Magic), publicist Saraceia and sales rep, Barb, Charlie and I headed to the museum. We tried to ignore the fact that in the atrium people salsa-ed their way through very loud Latin music. Strangely a Latin dance party was in full swing. Whatever. We were there to see the goods!
The Greek and Roman gallery was on the way to the Egyptian section. My first stop was this large first century Roman stone sculpture of a gladiator. After working on two projects (Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii and A Day of Fire: Stories of Pompeii) that included gladiators, it was very cool to stand before at a piece that may have been sculpted when my characters were alive.
When Charlie ran back to his car for his camera, I took in everything from the Attic black-figure amphorae to the sumptuously delicate pieces of Roman glass and actually teared up. How beautiful the pieces were! At least I was alone in my moment of uber-geek happiness.
The Egyptian gallery, while also small, had a number of impressive pieces. I took great interest in the carved tomb lintel that contained imagery I’ve only ever seen in books, including the bee above. The full body statue Sakhmet was also impressive (at the Carlos Museum, we have a bust of the lion-headed goddess, but not a full body statue).
Anyway, the second time I geeked-out was yesterday at the Michael C. Carlos Museum. I was there to interview the curator of the Greek and Roman galleries, Jasper Gaunt, about the many pieces the museum keeps in storage. Why don’t they make it into the galleries? Do they sit down there gathering dust or are the artifacts used in different ways?
We went down into the catacombs…er, I mean, the locked chamber of secrets…I mean, the collection of un-exhibited artifacts. Jasper gallantly showed me the pieces that will never see the light of museum glass, but are used in the classroom for study purposes. (Oh yeah…Emory is a UNIVERSITY, not just the museum! ;-)).
Then he pulled out several drawers filled with ancient carved gemstones. I was shocked at the number of exquisite pieces in carnelian and other colored stones. Eventually, the thousand-plus collection of pieces will have its own exhibit.
But when he pulled out a pottery shard of a black figure cup with the image of a siren on it…I kind of teared up again (I don’t think he noticed. Or if he did, he was too polite to say anything about it). But seriously, I’d never been that close to an artifact before. I could’ve touched it! I could see, up close, the handiwork of a genius craftsman that lived and worked more than 2,000 years ago!
My geek-nature always comes to the surface when I am around ancient art and artifacts. How lucky am I that I get to introduce children to these ancient marvels AND that I get to write books about the cultures that created them?
Seriously, my geek-cup runneth over.