A visit to the World Museum, organics department

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Venatio

People share a tremendous enthusiasm and passion for our collections across the world. One of the less visible sides of curators'  and conservators' work is the facilitation of access to our collections for the purposes of different types of study and research. Gary Haverty is an MA student at the University of Galloway in Ireland and here he talks about his passion for studying Consular Ivory Diptychs and what he gained from examining closely the important examples from our collections.

"Some of the unsung wonders of the ancient world lie shrouded in the organics conservation studio of World Museum. I first became interested in consular ivory diptychs as a Classics postgraduate with an interest in art history. While unpicking the tapestry of scholarship from scholars such as Alan Cameron and Anthony Cutler, I began to uncover some powerful and colourful insights into the social and political lives of the Roman Consul. Driven by an appetite, for not just the facts and figures, but to subject these commemorative objects to autopsy, I contacted Dr Chrissy Partheni, Curator of Classical Antiquities.

For the Romans, the pen was just as powerful as the sword, and it was through my correspondence with the hospitable curator that my visit to the studio was realised. Upon arrival she escorted me to the organics studio, where the conservator, Tracey Seddon, un-wrapped these presentation carvings and prepared the workbench. I wanted to look specifically at this collection because of the unique characteristics of each ivory panel; for example, the early 5th century ‘Venatio’ panel hosts a stag-fight featuring two animals and four hunters. The guiding composition of this panel is the alternating four doors of solid and a jour carving (figured openwork), the fourth of which has a life-size engraving of a fighter clad in a loin-cloth.

The Liverpool archives for these objects contain a mixture of letters and documents dating from the early twentieth century. From photographic requests to an inquiry from the State of Israel in 1981, the Liverpool archives offered me the opportunity to delve through the paper basket of scholars and ivory enthusiasts. To conclude, my abiding memory of World Museum is the air filled with the constant sound of youthful inquest and discovery, coupled with the endeavour made by staff to highlight all aspects of their collection."

Gary Haverty is an MA student at the University of Galloway in Ireland