Visit to Berlin

A trip to Berlin had been planned for a long time and this gave me the opportunity to combine research with pleasure.  At the archives, we are digitising glass lantern slides so that this rich bank of history will be available for future generations.   One way for the public to become involved with the project is to visit and re-photograph the sites from the lantern slide and so I went to Berlin with two photographs from the archive.  We had no information what the buildings in the lantern slide image were, but a quick search on the internet identified one of the pictures as the Bode Museum on the Museum Island.  I could not find any reference to the other picture.

AD43408_AHistc3d7img266c-scrBode Museum 1  

The Bode Museum c.1890 (l) and 2014 (r)

The weather was great and on our first day in Berlin we took a bus tour of the city.  I, of course, was armed with the two pictures and almost right at the start of the tour found the “unknown” building  –  there are now traffic lights right in front of the building – it is the Humboldt University on Unter den Linden.

AD43407_AHistc3d7img265c-scr Humboldt Uni 1

The Humboldt University c.1890 (l) and 2014 (r)

While comparing the photographs, differences become apparent almost immediately.  At the Bode Museum, the statue has disappeared, the railings along the river have changed, and modern buildings , cranes and pipework that carries the ground water are now prominent.

The changes at the university are less pronounced, although there is now a busy road rather than a quiet square in front of the building, the main change is the inscription on the building – now in modern German rather than Latin!

Not many of the old buildings survived the war although many have been restored or rebuilt.  Berlin now seems to be a city of glass and steel and many more changes are happening.


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Pictures and Poetry of the Himalayas

Two days ago, we discovered a small box of lantern slides in the archive, which had previously escaped our notice.

Geography box

“Geography” Lantern Slide Box

The unprepossessing brown cardboard cover with pencil markings revealed six stunningly beautiful images of the Himalayas and Baltoro glacier.

Himalaya Lantern Slides

Himalaya Lantern Slides

As the reverse of one of the lantern slides shows (top middle), they are images by the Italian photographer and explorer Vittorio Sella of the Baltoro Glacier, taken during his 1909 expedition to the Karakorum accompanied by Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of the Abruzzi  (for more images of the expedition, see the Library of Fratelli Alinari Museum of the History of Photography, Florence – The others (clockwise) are marked Staircase Windy Gap, Mustagh Tower from Baltoro gl., 1st Camp on Baltoro gl., Mt. Paiju & Towers from Rdokass, and K2 & Camp III.

The beauty of the Himalayas was not only appreciated by mountaineers, but also held interest for a wide range of explorers, including archaeologist and poet Stuart Piggott (1910 -1996), who travelled around India and Tibet in 1942-3.

Celebrating National Poetry Day today, we take this opportunity to share Stuart Piggott’s Poem ‘The Explorers’ of 4 May 1946


WE are the geographers bringing back reports
from inward Himalayas –
the difficult pass, the bridge that rains have broken,
the snow-peak sighted, unmapped, unclimbable.
But the theodolite bearings, the aneroid readings,
these we note down –
they may help the expedition leaving to-morrow.
The ethnologists recording daily adventures
among unknown tribes,
with anthropophagi met between luncheon and tea-time
in small clans ruled by magic we do not share:
a suburban bus-stop lonelier than jungle clearing –
nothing more strange
than our incomprehensible daily encounters.
Ours the plane-table survey of the desert,
the mind’s intersections
cobwebbing the squared paper of experience,
plotting the rare oasis, the wind eroded
fantastic rocky horizon black against sunsets –
promise or menace
the warm dawn after the starred night’s vigil may tell us.

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World War I in the Archive Images

There are few images in the archive which clearly relate to the Great War. These three were perhaps part of a lecture seeking to raise funds for those orphaned by the conflict.

As with modern conflict images, these serve to remind us that those most affected by war are not always in the military.

This picture was taken in France, though it is unclear whether the orphans were French or Belgian.

This picture was taken in France, though it is unclear whether the orphans were French or Belgian.

The battlefront of April, 1918, is shown on this slide, so it probably was created near the end of the war or shortly after its conclusion.

The battlefront of April, 1918, is shown on this slide, so it probably was created near the end of the war or shortly after its conclusion.

A church showing war damage Kennedybx1im017a

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City in the Sand

As we were scanning a box on Roman sites around the Mediterranean this image of Leptis Magna sprang out at us. Located directly on the sea in what is now Libya, Leptis Magna rose to become one of the great cities and trading ports of the Roman Empire.

Economic decline and environmental change, including the progressive silting-up of its natural harbour, led to a decline of the city after the third century. Conquests and re-conquests added to the fate of the site, which eventually disappeared under sand.

Myres: Libya: Tripoli: Leptis Magna: Great apse SE of Forum from the west

Myres Collection: Institute of Archaeology, Oxford

This is the way ancient historian and photographer John Linton Myres (1869-1954) found it 1,000 years later, during one of his travels around the Mediterranean at the turn of the 20th century.

The image captures the magic and symbolism the site must have held for a European explorer: undisturbed and yet to be excavated, a visual incarnation of Shelley’s famous poem of Ozymandias, Myres being the traveller, recording his image in the full knowledge that his shadow would be as transient as the might of the once powerful rulers…

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HEIR loves Stonehenge!

One of the best parts about working on the HEIR project has been the opportunity to experiment with rephotographing sites in the pictures. On Thursday, 26th June I had the chance to visit Stonehenge. As well as seeing the new visitor facilities, which are excellent, I took time to take some pictures.

Stonehenge 2014Photo: Janice Kinory

On arriving back at our office, I realized that my photos don’t look much like those from the archive. In our oldest images, from c. 1870, we can see roads and footpaths, which no longer exist, including the one adjacent to the Heal Stone currently being removed by English Heritage (EH).

Approach to StonehengeLantern slide: H.M.J.U. Underhill, c.1870

In general, many of the viewpoints in our images could only be duplicated now by getting special permission from EH as they require entry to places, such as the centre of the stone circle or the rear of the Heal Stone, which are closed to general visitors.

Institute of Archaeology, OxfordLantern slide: H.M.J.Underhill, April 18th 1895
“From the ‘Altar’ looking ENE exactly”
You can’t stand here today without special permisson…

Most importantly, some of the stones were straightened in the 1950s and 60s to stabilize them, so the leaning stones in our modern images are now standing upright – but this is how Stonehenge looked in c. 1910 when photographer R.W. Wylie visited…

Photographer: R.W. Wylie Glass plate negative

Photographer: R.W. Wylie
Glass plate negative

The other major difference I noticed is the large number of tourists in my pictures compared to their virtual absence in the archival images.

One unexpected feature of my trip was the presence of a rook sitting on a fence post next to the visitor pathway near the stones, calmly allowing itself to be photographed. As rooks are usually wary of humans, I wondered about this odd behavior. Later, I recalled that the old visitor centre had been nearby, with its picnic area where rooks and seagulls had begged for food. I’m sure this “rook star” was a veteran of that era, hoping for a handout.

Photographer: Janice KinoryPhotographer: Janice Kinory

I’ll close with a note that anyone planning to visit Stonehenge can greatly improve their day there by taking the time to pre-book their mandatory timed entry ticket on-line at the EH website, You can still buy tickets at the site on arrival, of course, but the queues are long and you may have to wait for entry.

Dr Janice Kinory (

Research Assistant, HEIR


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Moving the Tchalenko Archive

Thanks to the volunteers and Dr Marlena Whiting for their help moving the Georges Tchalenko Archive to the Archive Room (7.50 m of boxes + 4 boxes of slides and card records transported down five staircases – this Georgian building has no lift!). There is increasing interest in this archive, so we have moved it to be more accessible to researchers.

Georges Tchalenko was a Russian-born archaeologist who carried out research and survey work in Syria between 1934-1975 on behalf of the French Institute in Beirut.


The archive includes research notes, photographs, letters and notebooks – a fascinating record of sites and monuments as they stood over half a century ago.

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Bridge ballet

Spain: Alconétar. N. abutmentWe are busy scanning images to add to the Historic Environment Image Resource, which will be coming online later this year.

Some of the lantern slide photographs are so good we want to share them straight away – like this one.

Its label reads “Spain: Alconétar. N. abutment”. We don’t know anything about the photographer or the women jumping on the ruined bridge. The clothing suggests a date in the 1920s…

Spot the donkey?


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