I became interested in archaeology through a community project in Princes Risborough, Bucks., and was so intrigued by some of the theories that I started the Certificate Course in archaeology at Continued Education in Oxford. That was 5 years ago and now have a Diploma in Archaeology.
I retired from permanent employment in February last year – I travelled a lot during that year, but thought I needed something more permanent and interesting to do during the long winter days. When they were looking for volunteers to help out with the Jacobsthal archives last year, it did not take me very long to volunteer and have been there most Thursday mornings ever since.
It is not only great fun to work in the archives, but also very educational - I have learned more about various archaeologists than I ever thought I would. It is great fun to meet up with ex-colleague students and various other people I have met at different digs over the years. It is very interesting to catalogue letters and look at photographs of the past and try to link people and events so that the archives tell a story.
Archives are very important – especially if they are digitised and made accessible for more people – it shows how difficult it must have been for antiquarians and archaeologists in the past to date the finds and artefacts. It is often forgotten that technology currently easily available for archaeologists and people in general, just did not exist less than 100 years ago. It makes interesting reading the correspondence between archaeologists, museums archivists and various other people to determine when an artefact was made and where it originated.
I am currently working on the Stuart Piggott archive – especially all documentation relating to his research on his book on the Druids.
I do not think I have a favourite find - but working on the Jacobsthal archive and through his letters I realised how difficult life must have been for him and his family during the 1930s when he tried to settle and work in England. It must have seemed an insurmountable task to him to publish his work on Celtic art as he was not allowed to take his work with him, but his letters from Oxford showed clearly the extensive network of people, all over Europe, prepared to help him to achieve this.