I don't know how many of my readers are researchers. I know that many of you are teachers and educators. However, one of the things that drew me into history was the research. I have always loved libraries and archives: the smell, the feel, the intimacy of the artifacts, etc. Currently, I am reading Donna Leon's novel, The Jewels of Paradise, which is a departure from her Guido Brunetti novels because it focuses on a musicologist's search for the truth about a Baroque composer. It's all about the research, which in many reviews people seemed to hate. I am also reading Danielle Trussoni's novel, Angelology: A Novel, which is partly an exploration of the research of angels.
By reading these books, I have been not only thinking of my own research into American expatriates, but also some projects that I would love to delve into if I had the resources, i.e. the time, funding, and technology. I don't remember exactly the passage in The Jewels of Paradise that caused me to think about reliquaries, but I know something did.
My mind sometimes wonders when I read, and I thought about a quote from Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad from 1869. In the passages about visiting Genoa, Italy, Twain mentions the number of relics he has seen and writes:
But isn't this relic matter a little overdone? We find a piece of the true cross in every old church we go into, and some of the nails that held it together. I would not like to be positive, but I think we have seen as much as a keg of these nails. Then there is the crown of thorns; they have part of one in Sainte Chapelle, in Paris, and part of one also in Notre Dame. And as for bones of St. Denis, I feel certain we have seen enough of them to duplicate him if necessary.
So, I began to ponder this statement and thought that it would be an interesting topic to research. If I had the resources, I would love to take an inventory of all of the Christian relics. I'm sure the Vatican has one somewhere. Once I had that, I would love to take a computer program that would piece together each individual relic and see if it would be possible to reconstruct at least one of the saints from the bones he left behind.. Or, more likely to see just how many fingers John the Baptist has hidden away in reliquaries. I find relics to be a morbid fascination, though one that I would love to have the resources to explore someday.
One day, and I hope it's one day soon, I will finally receive my PhD and will be able to reenter the world of academia and get out of teaching high school. Maybe I will one day be fortunate enough to head a major research project like the one mentioned above.