From the Figge Front: Many Metal Drawers

“They’re like an army! A tiny, terracotta army all lined up in a storage drawer! You know, like that Chinese terracotta army that was discovered years ago. Only smaller. Much smaller.”

I turn to Victoria (from OIA--O'Connell International Arts, Inc.), eyes eager with the expectation that she agree. She shakes her head, laughing in amused consent.
Victoria examines the terracotta army.

I return her smile. It’s not an army, of course. I’m just being goofy after a long day on my feet. So what is it that we’re unpacking? One of many metal drawers that rest within large shipping boxes, each of which is filled with either Pre-Columbian terracotta figures or Chinese jades.

A drawer of Chinese jades.

I stare down at our current drawer and over fifty Pre-Columbian figures stare back, adorned in representations of clothing and accessories indigenous to their time and place. Tiny figures, beautifully decorated with molded details that are accentuated by brightly colored pigment. I’m trained to work with terracotta objects, but the majority of my experience has come from Roman vessels and votive offerings that I’ve excavated abroad. But these figures...were they used as votive offerings? Or perhaps they were fertility fetishes (many are voluptuously pregnant women)? One of the coolest parts of this job is that my mind naturally connects what I see to what I know, encouraging me to identify similarities and question differences. I’ll have to learn more about these particular figures when we’re finished unpacking and I’m back in the office. But for now...
A view of the work space.

...I need to concentrate on documenting each drawer that we pull out of the numerous boxes still waiting to be checked in. Today is Tuesday and we’re hoping to finish unpacking everything by Friday. Glancing around the enormous room, I am doubtful; however we’ve made quite a dent this week already and if we continue at this pace we just might be able to finish by the weekend.

Jeff (right) at work with an OAI employee.
Steve Erickson and Nathan Popp of the UIMA at the works on paper check-in station.

In fact, we’ve established an additional check-in station so that we can expedite this process. Kathy and Nathan continue to examine the works on paper, with help from Anna Heineman (a Ph.D. student in art history who works for UIMA). Jeff works with OIA employees at the main "objects" check-in table, and Victoria and I run a smaller "objects" station across the room. One of the OIA guys has taken to calling the two of us "Laverne and Shirley." Having never seen this television show, I’m unfamiliar with these characters and can only assume that they represent two hard-working, art-loving girls, as that’s exactly what we are.

--Melissa Hueting, UIMA Assistant to the Director for Special Programs and Curatorial Assistant

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