Amherst Magazine

Office Space: Rick Griffiths

Professor of Classics and Women's and Gender Studies Rick Griffiths has been a bit of a nomad over the past few years. After having offices in Grosvenor House and Converse Hall, he's settled into a new space tucked between geology professors' offices in the Earth Sciences and Natural History Building. "I don't have tools or rocks like they do ... I have tchotchkes." Explore his puppets, books, stand-in parents and total lack of classical pottery (there's a reason) below. 

To navigate the 360° image below, click and drag to move around or click the "+" or "-" buttons to zoom in and out. Clicking on any object's number will bring you to the explanations below. You must have QuickTime installed to view this image. If you don't have the plug-in, you may download it for free.

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Item 1: Daedalus and Pasiphaë
Pasiphaë, the queen of Minoan Crete (left), wanted, as Griffiths puts it, to "date" a bull (not pictured). She asked Daedalus to build her a hollow cow—an enterprise that ended in the birth of a mythical creature. "That's [the story that] lies behind the Minotaur," Griffiths explains. "It's from a broken home. You can see the sign of pain on his face." (See Object 9.)

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Object 2: Zack Yorke '03 painting
Griffiths purchased this painting from Zack Yorke '03, who created it as part of a senior thesis. It's one of three student creations adorning his office (aside from the stacks of papers that, we're told, partially covered his desk before this story was photographed). 

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Object 3: The Dead Poets
A sort of loosely defined "Dead Poets Society," including Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Sappho, Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf, clings to the front of Griffith's desk. Queen Elizabeth I joins the crew at bottom center, and, according to Google, she does in fact meet the two membership requirements of the Dead Poets Society.

The ovals, Griffiths explains, are simply to add color to an otherwise gray surface. After a day of student conferences, Griffiths found that one of his students had, somehow, arranged them concentrically without Griffiths noticing. "Very creepy," he adds. 

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Object 4: Jessica Mestre '10 Photo
This print, by Jessica Mestre '10, was part of a year-long exhibit of her photography in Frost Library. Mestre, a former student in Griffith's First-Year Seminar, gave him the print when she took the exhibit down. "I love the detail [of the truck]," Griffiths explains. "It goes with all the toys in my office."

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Object 5: Bead Animals 
In a building full of geologists with rock samples, tools and artifacts from field expeditions dotting their offices, Griffiths decided to add as many colorful tchotchkes as possible to his. A classicist, he explains, can't take his work home. "Classicists tend not to have any antiquities," he explains. "There's almost no honest way to have them, because the traffic is mostly black-market." These beadwork animals from South Africa (and matching dried flowers) do the trick instead.

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Object 6: Book Collection
Griffiths used to keep his scholarly book collection split between his library carrel and home. Now that he works in a building filled with wonderfully sensitive alarms (a child running a bit too rambunctiously down the hallway once managed to set off an alarm in one of the displays), Griffiths is happy to have his collection finally together in one place.

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Object 7: A Queen and a Mouse
"This?" Griffiths responds to an inquiry, "this is another queen and an animal." (See Object 9.)

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Object 8: Griffiths' Griffin
A coworker gave Griffiths this griffin (an incredibly hard phrase to type correctly two lines in a row) as an homage to his name. As an homage to Amherst, it now wears a purple bow. 

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Object 9: Another Queen
"I was teaching a class in which Queen Elizabeth I figured a couple of times. We read Virginia Woolf's Orlando and then Kiss of the Spider Woman, which is about other types of queens." A student created a print of the queen for Griffiths, which now sits next to its muse and a very pro-Amherst (though, as we learned from Object 1, sullen) Minotaur. 

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Object 10: Portable Parents
"The Portable Parents," Griffiths explains, as he loads in four AA batteries, are a powerful combination. When pressed, Dad gruffly yells that "When I was your age I had to walk to school," then "Shut up and sit down!" and finally "I said No." Mom, on the other hand, warns in a startlingly shrill electronic voice that "You're going to poke someone's eye out with that thing!" before settling into the classic "It's broken now. Are you happy?" "They're surefire hits in my first-year seminar," Griffiths jokes. A student who missed that day's seminar walked in during the interview and was subjected to the push-button parental berating. The seminar? FYSE-16: "Liberation."

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