The Curious Collection of Professor Rufus Excalibur Bell
“Bold man wanted for unique curatorial position. Small wages and risk
of dismemberment, but adventure guaranteed. Apply Higgins Armory Museum,
Some years ago, those words led me to become the latest in a long line of
assistants to the enigmatic Professor Rufus Excalibur Bell, curator of curiosities
at the aforesaid museum. I was thrilled to be working for the creator of the
world’s foremost repository of dragon artifacts and mythological specimens.
Here I could squeeze between shelves holding the giant jeweled dragon saddles
of the Ottoman Empire and the jade burial shrouds of celestial dragons from
the Han Dynasty. Mornings could be spent cataloging the songs of harpies and
afternoons counting the toes on the six speci-mens of griffin. The fieldwork
would see me scrambling after the tireless Bell as he collected fairie folk
in Wales, or unearthed cuneiform tablets on Mount Kuitarra.
Perhaps it was a message in one of those tablets that prompted his most recent disappearance. “Going for a bit of a walkabout, Hilary,” the note read, “just to clear the mind.” I haven’t laid eyes on him since. Then, as I had been warned would happen, the boxes started arriving.
Sent from around the world, the packages—containing now a frozen yeti, now the head of the Medusa—have been unsettling. A rumor is afoot that Rufus Excalibur Bell, hired by the museum in 1931, has freed himself from the boundaries of time and space.
Comings and Goings
Sightings of Professor Bell continue, sometimes in his office, sometimes in one of the department’s subbasements. Witnesses report seeing a tall man with a distracted air, perennially in his mid-forties. He was last spotted just after the department opened its doors to the public last year: “Keep your fingernails clean, stay off the cigars, and follow the evidence,” he is reputed to have told Emily Bickerstaff, age five.
Beyond Belief: The Curious Collection of Professor
Rufus Excalibur Bell is an exhibition of objects created by Hilary
Scott, F87, F92, and curated by Linda Woodland, G06. It runs through
2011 at the Higgins Armory Museum, in Worcester, Massachusetts. To
see a video of Hilary Scott at work, click here.
HILARY SCOTT, F87, was a lecturer in political
theory at Tufts when he began making things to amuse his children.
For the past ten years he has been an artist full time—except
for summers, when he is photographer for the Boston Symphony Orchestra
at Tanglewood. He created more than a hundred fanciful sculptures
for his latest exhibition at the Higgins Armory Museum, on which
his article is based. Running the show is LINDA (PADHI)
WOODLAND, G06, assistant curator of exhibits at the Higgins. Woodland
holds a master’s in art history and, fittingly, is an authority
on monsters in medieval art.