The Met, UCLA and the Getty's book research time

I've had a fantastic time in the US: Bouchercon, where I met amazing people, New York where I met the fine people at FinePrint, and also met Editor Kathleen for the first time (I met Kathleen's boss Keith Kahla in Indianapolis, where he was wandering about in a state of incognito).

The final phase of the trip was book research. I spent a very intense 2 days at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then flew to LA, where for 3 days I've been doing book research at UCLA and the Getty Villa, and very successful it's been too. The Met has an excellent section on Ancient Greece, and the Getty Villa is a simply astounding collection.

My total photo count across the Met and the Getty Villa is 719 images.

What do I do with them all? I use the photos for artefacts in the books, and since I never know what I'm going to need in advance I cover all bets. What I'm mostly targeting is everyday items to give you realistic descriptions.

For example, say Nico goes into a bath house. Classical Greece has soap, but no one wants to use it because it's made of goat fat and ashes. Instead, a slave rubs Nico with oil and then scrapes away the dirty oil and the dead outer layer of his skin with a metal implement called a strigil. But what's a strigil look like? It looks like this:

This might be the very flask and strigil the slave used on Nico. This strigil is larger than the Roman equivalent, and note the way it's curved on the inside.

Seeing the strigil tells me lots of things, and inspires possibilities. If enemies rushed into the bath house and attacked Nico with knives, he could realistically grab this strigil to parry the blows until he can get away. No, that doesn't happen in any of the books, but now that I've seen one, it might.

It's going to take me a long, long time to catalogue everything I captured, but as I do I'll post anything that strikes me as being of general interest.

So tomorrow night I hop on a big plane to go home. It's been lots of fun in the US. Do look after the place until I can get back next year.


Stephanie Thornton said...


I love the Met! I was in seventh heaven in the Hatshepsut room of the Egyptian wing. I might have actually spent an entire day in the Egyptian wing. :)

Gary Corby said...

I definitely did spend an entire day in the Greek section. Then spent another day in the rest of the place. I loved the Egyptian temple they've set up, btw. And the Impressionists; I'm rather keen on the Impressionist period.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

I dropped by and enjoyed reading some of your posts. Interesting research you do. Cheers, Simon.

scaryazeri said...

can't believe we never managed to have that coffee on thursday! :) next time, eh.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Scary,

So frustrating that I never got your text. I'm sad because it would have been so cool to meet you.

For the uninitiated, Scary and I were in NY at the same time, and failed to connect even though we were within 5 minutes walk of each other. Aarrgh!

Peter Rozovsky said...

You know, strigil has long been one of my favorite words. Someone ought to bring them back. I could do without being greased up, though.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Gary Corby said...

Peter, anyone with a basic knowledge of bronze working could make you a strigil. But I definitely wouldn't use it without the oil, unless you enjoy bleeding from a dozen scrapes.

Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, I'm off to Body Works tomorrow for a strigil and an amphora full of body oil. I'll let you know the result of my trip.

The Met has lots of good pre-Classical material, if I recall, and some fifth-century funerary stelae to break your heart.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"