Saturday, January 24, 2015

Common Books, Papyrus Masks...and Still Conversing by Journal

 My  common lament on coughing has worn both me and my doctor down..and most likely  my readers too! I'm still on 2 inhalers, still coughing when I talk too much (but I'm so glad to at least be that much better!), so I'm to continue my voice rest indefinitely, and I've been referred to a specialist.
I told the doctor that I am a quiet person by nature, it's not always a big deal for me to have to talk, and I like to write. However I am now near the end of  my second notebook of written out thoughts so that I can converse with my family, and I am going BONKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He started laughing and told me, "Well, didn't the people in the 18th century write everything out about all the details of their lives? Aren't one of you in your family into the history thing?" Yes, that's me, and yes those of the 18th century did write down the details of their lives in notebooks called commonplace books. Museums like Colonial Williamsburg rely on them greatly to restore their buildings, to fill their buildings with historically accurate items, to know how to retell history, etc, etc, etc.  The 18th century was really great about writing everything down like interactions with others, politics of the day, even detailing inventories like books or household items.
Although I have my pile of my own personal commonplace books that I fill when touring historic sites with all the notes of things I've learned and experienced...

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I do now have a new pile growing of my 21st century books of conversations with people, with my side of the conversation. Anyone patient enough to read all that?

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The doctor said, "Since you're interested in history, have you heard of the papyrus mask that is currently being unveiled?
Many of us know of the richly ornamented pharoah masks of the kings of Egypt. Lesser known sorts who were mummified could only afford papyrus masks, which are currently being very carefully peeled away to an amazing assortment of papers such as...the Gospel of  Mark, copies of Homer's incredible stories (you know Homer from Greece who is credited for some of the first great pieces of literature, the Iliad and the Odyssey, upon which later works were inspired.) and even personal letters.
Dissenters take huge issue of this mask even being unveiled, or peeled away and stripped of its layers. For the record, I want to note that museums always have this dilemma when they receive a new to them object of antiquity. With great debate among their own staff the curators ponder the following:
  • Should we leave it alone to learn from how it looked when it was discovered?
  • Should we restore it to its former condition to learn from that angle?
  • Should we pick it apart and learn from what is underneath...then we can leave future similar finds intact?
My kids and I learned all about the job of museum curators in making these decisions, and how they go about this process in great depth with a Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip, Treasure Keepers. However there is no way for me to link to it directly (the previous link is to my own blog post of our reactions when we first saw it) since it is a paid subscription for enrolled schools that is only available the years that this particular program is shown. It was incredible and vastly interesting  yet I can't find anything on-line that even comes close to documenting  the curators' important job. We have also had behind-the-scenes tours, some public and some private, into the job of the curator at Colonial Williamsburg which caused us to truly appreciate their job. As a result, I'm in full support of the papyrus unmasking!


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