Friday, 7 August 2015

Getting Away Lightly.

I spent a little time in the City Museum and Art Gallery today, poring over some glass cases in which were exhibited artefacts from the much-vaunted Staffordshire Hoard. They were mostly divided into two sections:

a. These are sword decorations.

b. We haven’t worked out what these are yet.

The exhibit I found most interesting was an apparently human skull. The info card even said ‘Human Skull,’ but I had my suspicions. No mention was made of whether the object had been found with the Staffordshire Hoard or somewhere else, like the nearby theatre for example. It seemed to me that the mouth contained rather too many teeth for a modern human, and the jawline looked suspiciously simian. And I never trust anything I read on cards these days…

And then it occurred to me how disastrous it would have been to have a DPhil archaeology student along for the ride. I would never have got her out of the bloody place, would I? I would have been trapped in the black hole that is the city of my birth for ever and ever, my brain developing warts and my lips becoming encrusted with dried froth, while she valiantly attempted to work out what the things that haven’t been worked out yet were. Fortunately, I was alone (as usual.)


Madeline said...

I saw pieces of the Staffordshire hoard in the British Museum, and yes, it was hard to pry myself away from them, and from the contents of museums in general. I am always impressed and a little jealous that so many places in the UK have their own museums, and very good ones too. They're definitely less common in the US. Both of my favorite American towns/cities could do with a museum.

JJ Beazley said...

Maybe it's just that Americans are generally less likely to be history-conscious than Europeans, but are more focused on inventing things like jazz, mass production of motor cars, and junk food.

And Britain has a long tradition of keeping museums free so that no section of the population is excluded. The current government's obsession with austerity measures has persuaded some local authorities to start charging admission fees. That's a shame.

And on that note, thanks for the Tumblr piece on the Glasgow poorhouse. I was already depressed, and it was heartening to read how the Establishment once regarded the poor as being culpable almost to the point of criminality. That attitude is making a come back over here.

Madeline said...

That attitude never left the United States, sadly. I've been researching the local almshouse and poring through the old ledgers. You'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) by the mental gymnastics the record keepers used to blame the poor for their own condition. "This man is paralyzed, likely caused by intemperance." "This woman has relatives but she's too proud to ask for their help." etc.

I'm always sorry to hear about the UK's "austerity measures." It seemed to me, during the brief time that I lived there, that the Brits had a lot of things sorted out. Not to say that the welfare system and NHS are perfect, but that the underlying principle, that a society should provide for its own people's well-being, reflected a maturity that the US seems to be lacking.

JJ Beazley said...

Ah, Maddie, the story goes back to 1945 when war weariness invoked the popular will to create a brave new world. And so it came to pass until Mrs Thatcher read a theory propounded by Adam Smith, which I gather he had already disowned, made friends with Ronald Reagan, and set about the process of seeking 'a return to Victorian values.'

The rest would take a lot of typing, but I think the bottom line is that British 'maturity' is on the ropes.

Maybe it's time for the good Brits and Yanks to join forces and form the neo-Pilgrim Mothers and Fathers. Is there an empty land where we could generate some sanity?

It's late and I'm dreaming, but the seat next to mine on the quarterdeck is reserved. So glad I bumped into you.