I must apologise for neglecting my posting duties over the past two weeks. Oddly enough, I had so many demands on my time due to my coursework. It’s almost as if they expect me to do work for this degree. Shocking really.
To be honest, the past two weeks I have been gearing up for an exam in my Care of Collections module. Everyone off the course has been preparing and over-preparing. I myself went through all eighteen lecture presentations and made flashcards for only the most important points, which, unfortunately, meant ALL of the points. You see this was an exam that could and would ask anything about anything. The tiniest little afterthought in a lecture could turn into a question that would make even the most well-studied of us think they were suffering from the early stages of acute memory loss. In order to combat the stress and encourage us to band together in our time of need, four of us set up four group study sessions. We reserved a room in the Dawson Building twice and week in the hopes that at the very least the misery-loves-company adage would get us through.
The first revision session (okay so over here you don’t “study” you “revise” for an exam) was two Mondays ago. We met in the Birley Room and pulled up the first lecture’s PowerPoint presentation on the large projector. Then for the next two hours we went through each slide, furiously writing flashcards for ourselves. It was a bit inefficient and it was then that we came up with a plan for the next two sessions. On Thursday we would discuss and then practice using our psychometric charts to figure out relative humidity levels in various manufactured situations. The Monday after I was tasked with developing Pest Jeopardy. No not pest as in your annoying co-worker, pest as in fungi, insects, and rodents. You see, dear Reader, we had to know the scientific names of common insects found in museums because all museum professional can readily identify any insect by its scientific name. (That was sarcasm in case you were wondering.)
So over the weekend, well Sunday night to be more accurate, I put together a Jeopardy round on PowerPoint which featured all questions you could possibly think of regarding moulds and fungi and rots. Gems such as:
These fungi feed on both cellulose and lignin, their hyphae penetrate through the cell lumens of wood and eat away the whole cell wall. This depletes the wood of all its substance and strength; it invariably cracks with a cuboid fracture.
What is holy-crap-we’re-all-going-to-fail-this-exam?
Then I put together a Double Jeopardy round for our insect friends. Three categories were devoted to scientific names of species from the Anobius Punctatem to Lepisma Saccharina. (Yes, I was able to just type those out without looking them up and that would be the Furniture Beetle and Silverfish.) I even constructed a Final Jeopardy question. The category was light and I knew most of us wouldn’t be wagering that much.
Monday was a truly gorgeous day. The sun was shining so brightly and it was at least 21˚C. I had left my sweaters and jeans behind and wore one of my light summer skirts and a tank top with a jacket. The jacket came off almost immediately. The sky was the perfect shade of blue and everyone was wearing smiles and sunglasses. Damn you, England! No one wants to go inside and study on a day like this!
Side note: I’ve been having various arguments with England over its peculiar weather patterns recently. You see I bought myself an astronomy kit over a month ago and I have been reading and studying the charts. All I’ve wanted to do since then was get outside at night and look up at the stars. So far most of my attempts have been foiled by cloud cover. I can be sure that no ancient civilisations in Britain could have ever worshipped the stars because YOU CAN NEVER SEE THEM!
I had to turn in an assignment on Monday before noon. The fifty pages of essay, evaluation, and appendices were burning a hole in my brand new rucksack so I headed down early. I was lucky enough to bump into Sophie and Alex. We agreed to meet up with Kate at New Inn in thirty minutes for a leisurely lunch before heading over to the Dawson Building for Jeopardy.
Oh that lunch was lush, to use a phrase I’ve learned here. Sophie and I arrived first and grabbed a table outside under an umbrella. Everything was summer. Everyone who passed by was dressed in their light clothes with sunglasses. The sun beamed down over everything and it was as though someone had turned the world to HD. The greens were greener, the blues bluer, and the very few puffy clouds in the sky were whiter. The smells, too, they were just like the summer smells from back home. Grass, fragrant flowers, the smell of sun-kissed skin. There is a very distinct summer smell I remember from being a kid and to this day I can’t identify what it is or where it comes from but it is absolutely the smell of summer. It was there as well.
We were soon joined by Alex and Kate and Amanda and Jeremy found us as well. We all sat around the table chatting, eating, and drinking in the day. Desperately unwilling to go to our self-imposed revision session. Finally, I stood up. All good things…
Pest Jeopardy was definitely a hit. It began as a terrifyingly humbling experience as none of us, not even me who had written some of the questions, could answer them all effectively. As we went through the questions over and over again they began to soak into our summer-addled skulls. By the time we got to the scientific names we were slightly punchy. This turned out to be to our advantage as we began coming up with the most bizarre (and effective) pneumonic devices.
“How are we ever going to remember that Anobium Punctatum is the Furniture Beetle, or any of these for that matter?” decried Kate.
I thought for a moment.
“What if we turned them into Harry Potter spells?” I suggested. I waved an imaginary wand and pronounced, “Anobium Punctatum” as though it were the levitation spell Wingardium Leviosa.
“Oh my gosh that’s brilliant!” Said Sophie.
We went through a few more. Kate made the brilliant observation that Lepisma Saccharina would fit nicely into the Maccarenasong. So of course we all began singing: “Heyyyyy saccharina!”
There was also the story we made up to remember the four most common moulds, Aspergillus, Cladisporium, Paecilomyces and Penicillium. I’m not quite sure how it evolved really but it involved Jesus trying to buy asparagus and Penicillin with Pesos. Hey whatever works right?
By the end of the session we were all feeling much more confident about pests. As we turned off the lights in the room and closed the door Ill confess that I was humming the Lepisma Saccharina song.