Isn’t it interesting, given the restrictions on women’s access to education through the ages and across the continents, that those wise old Greeks decided that ‘knowledge’ should be personified as female?
Like all bits of myth and religion, contradictory stories surround the muses: there were three or there were nine, they came from Thrace, or they came from Mount Olympus or they came from Ethiopia, they came from water, air and sound or they were the daughters of Zeus (power) and Mnemosyne (memory).
Whatever, for getting on for three thousand years they’ve been female and they’ve known stuff.
For a long time they multi-tasked but once they started appearing together as statues, they were each allocated one of the tools of their trade (writing tablet, scroll, globe, mask…) and they’ve been specialising ever since. So here, on the roof of the building that was the second home of Oxford University Press (which is now in only its third home since 1669) are (I think) Erato and Urania. They are made of lead and were originally placed with no fixings whatsoever until Euterpe and Melpomene were blown off the roof – one in 1810 and one a few years earlier – and flattened. (Kind of symbolic when you think about women and education.)
Today is Open Doors in Oxford and before this I went to see what my ex-employer had done with the display I created about St Thomas School, the fascinating building they are in. Aaagh! Total failure to understand presentation (Extra). The eleven panels were printed smaller than they should have been and given a white border they shouldn’t have. Those that were hung on walls were at different heights and out of order. Some had been scattered on a table. One was shoved bizarrely into a picture frame leaning on a piece of wood, placed overlapping another two. All it needed was 44 bits of blutack and a modicum of vision. As a bonus, the door to the toilet (left of the extra picture) was wide open.
Ah well, I tried to create a better ending to our relationship and failed. I didn’t look for the missing panel – just went off to climb a building.