When I started this blog about a year ago, I called it "the world's museum." I meant to evoke in that phrase the curious and thoughtful looking that I associate with museums, the way we pause, admire, critique, ask questions, try to remember objects that the museum presents us. What if the world were a museum, then? What if we, walking across fields, reading a book, looking at a garden, visiting a new place, thought of what we were seeing as cared for by curators, as "framed" to invite us to contemplate, the time we spend there precious and significant?
Elizabeth was the daughter of my father's youngest sister, who followed him from southern Georgia to Cambridge, Mass. There they roomed together and she studied Shakespeare with the G. L. Kittredge, who was my father's dissertation advisor. And he introduced her to Herb Hoover, not the president, but a young architect from Idaho. He built a collection of stunning modernist homes in Lincoln, Mass., including his own home. No wonder that Elizabeth, and her twin Lucretia, and brother Harry, grew up wanting to talk about art -- and music, and books, and mountains -- as if these were part of a vast museum.
Elizabeth, like her sister, studied art history at Oberlin, using the same wonderful art museum that I now teach in and write about. Later she took an MA at Harvard -- while I was an undergraduate there, and I would visit her at the Fogg. When she married John Norman, she moved to England with him and taught art history at several places, most recently at Hallam University in Sheffield. She finished her PhD at Leeds just a few years ago, in her late 60s!
I loved visiting England's historic homes with Elizabeth. Last fall we went to Haddon Hall, an Elizabethan house that I had never seen. We lingered -- despite the freezing cold -- in the courtyard, the great hall, the chambers, the galleries, talking all the time about the architecture, the furnishings, the people who had lived here, above all just trying to evoke for each other the sense of the wonderful patina of the place, its layered historicity. John gave up after not too long and went ahead to watch a video about the re-creating of a sixteenth century banquet in the hall.
the link to her part of this event -- you can actually watch her swing the clubs!