Testudines is the order of reptile more commonly known as turtles, tortoises and terrapins. In addition to it being a great word (I have a fondness for multi-syllabic words with hard consonants in the middle), it is representative of a creature I was fascinated by as a child . I love this picture of me watching a snapping turtle in my aunt’s back yard.
Turtles appear in my dreams often; I rejoice when they do as I then wake refreshed and excited to face the day.
Testudines are some of the most ancient reptiles alive. The ones my aunt kept in the back yard for a time were most likely snapping turtles, big, slow and a little big scary because of the hissing sound they made. They seemed to spend more time napping then snapping and feeding them was not nearly as exciting as feeding the snakes was.
I’ve been working on an assemblage with specimens from Ruth’s archives – Testudines Box. This box assemblage is the 3rd I’ve made using hardwood boxes that measure 12x6x7, two of the four corners curved rather than square.The two previous are Lepideptura Box and Bird Box.
To combat what I call ‘analysis paralysis’ when working with such a wealth of materials, I tend to develop a set of parameters for each series. For these boxes the parameters are:
1) specimen(s) from Ruth’s collection
2) photograph(s) of the lovely and amazing young women Ruth photographed
3) magnifying lens(es)
4) reproduction(s) of Ruth’s handwriting from her journals or teaching lessons
5) reproduction(s) of published materials used in her teaching
Testudines Box includes the shell of a Red Slider turtle along with the skull and jawbone of another Red Slider (this placed in a wooden box and magnified).
These artifacts are arranged in front of a color scan reproduction of the same turtle shell overlaid with mica.
The interior box walls are lined with a repetition of an Emily Dickinson poem written out by Ruth in her journal, the exterior walls with instructions for digging out a laying of turtle eggs from one of Ruth’s many nature education books, an encyclopedia entry and images of turtle anatomy from various published nature studies.