“Q. What is this goddess resting her elbow on?”
This question was put to a museum-goer by the author of Museum Ideals of Purpose and Method (1923) in order to test “museum fatigue:”
“The observer…was instructed to answer the questions with the least possible exertion and to hold the positions he needed to assume for the purpose until he could be photographed.”
The result is a study of human movement in the spirit of Eadweard Muybridge, with the subject pictured Bent, Much Bent, Half-Crouching, Crouching (above), Twist[ed], Looking Up, Stretching Forward, Stretching Up, and even Climbing Up.
This documentation supports the author’s book-length argument: “If the public is to gain more than a minute fraction of the good from museum exhibits…, radical changes in our methods of exhibition are imperative.” These include many conventions assumed today, from careful lighting to well-placed labels.
The answer to the original question, by the way, is “A smaller statuette bearing a drum-shaped object on its head.” Now that sounds uncomfortable.