The alibi for the trip to New York was a visit to the Metropolitan Museum. The husband is part of a team organising a Syria exhibition at the Royal Academy and wanted to look out some early Christian Syrian material and talk to the curators who might lend it (interestingly -- or horrifyingly -- it turns out that a Syrian exhibition would not be possible in the USA, as Bush's legislation about not dealing with terrorist states extends to cultural objects and projects). We also wanted to "do" the new Roman galleries in detail.
Let me say to start with that there is some fabulous stuff in these galleries -- and interestingly different from what you find in European collections. There are no big bits of 'state art' in New York... it's by and large smaller in scale, but almost everything would provide the subject for a whole lecture. It also shows the necessity of actually SEEING the the things you write about.The bronze image of the goddess Cybele pulled by lions in her chariot is often illustrated in books on Roman religion (including my own). I had never realised before that it was part of some water feature, with the lions' mouths acting as spouts. That makes it something rather different from the cult object it is usually assumed to be.
So the whole visit was tremendously worthwhile. In particular the glass, like this gorgeous blue piece -- which I suspect, if one saw it in an antique shop, one would never guess was Roman. Eighteenth-century perhaps?
It made me think that if I was starting my research career all over again, I'd seriously consider going into ancient glassware.
But despite the tremendous riches, there were some problems. Notably some of the labels and information panels. Now, I know from experience that writing museum labels is much harder than people imagine -- and it is too easy to carp.
But the Met didn't come out very well.