Monday’s presentation went very well, in my opinion. The president seemed appropriately impressed with the manuscripts that had been brought out (he even picked up a magnifying glass to examine the text on the Latin & French RSB) and, while his questions seemed to indicate a greater concern for the “marketability” of the collection, he at least seemed to recognize that the collection is an untapped resource of immense value.
It was the provost’s questions and comments that particularly caught my attention, however. He seemed to have already grasped the value of the collection, and showed greater concern for how that investment was being cared for. He asked several questions about the vault – including security and fire-suppression measures – and possibilities for expanding all of Special Collections, as well as about plans for digitizing the manuscripts (and costs thereof). He was very no-nonsense about the whole thing, which I found a bit off-putting at first, then came to appreciate. He clearly wants to make sure the university is getting the best bang for its buck.
Captain Arthur did a great job with his bit, despite not knowing until just as the VIPs were arriving what his bit would entail (he had thought he – and I – would just be expected to field questions, but instead he was called upon to provide a brief explanation of each MS and its potential value as a scholarly resource, as well as a summary of the cataloguing project. I don’t think I embarrassed myself (or him) too much, though I couldn’t remember the dating of MS 17 and I missed the opportunity to respond to a question about the insert in MS 15 (?) – the answer given incorrectly described it as a privilege, when it was actually a list of commemorations, but by the time I realized what had happened they’d moved on to the next subject, and I didn’t want to embarrass anyone.
Apart from preparing for the presentation, I’ve been pulling each MS and comparing it with the draft description in the catalog, paying particular attention to the incipits and explicits to make sure they match. It’s a very daunting task, not least because I have almost no paleography training, though I suppsoe this counts as on-the-job training. As I was explaining to my supervisor yesterday, I am hesitant at times to make an executive decision and correct something, even if my eyes (and brain) tell me with 100% assuredness that I am right, because I’m sure that someone with more experience and training will come along after me and declare that I am wrong, and be able to explain why, and then I’ll have egg on my face. I suppose, though, that it’s a risk and a responsibility you have to accept – you have to have the courage of your convictions and take a position, and then, if proven wrong, have the good grace to admit so.
Ego, dammit. It’s not about me.
I’ve also been battling the back-to-school crud, which jumped me last weekend with a scratchy throat, progressed to my nasal passages, and is now wreaking havoc on my lungs and voice (I now have that ever-so-sexy smoker’s rasp; pity I don’t have the looks of a younger Lauren Bacall – or heck, an older Anne Bancroft – to accompany it). I’ve been comforting myself by listening to some of my favorite installments of Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Vorkosigan saga on iTunes. Gosh, I love Miles. And Ivan. And Simon. And Aral. And… And… And…
*From “October,” by Robert Frost.