Posted by Ellen Higgs
‘On Wednesday 22nd June 2016, a small uncatalogued archive of Martin William Frederiksen’s collection of 35mm slides, photographs and negatives was transferred from Worcester College, Oxford to the Institute of Archaeology.
Martin William Frederiksen was in international scholar, attending and teaching at various institutions across the world. He was born in Sumatra in 1930 and grew up in Canberra, before studying history at first the University of Sydney in 1957 and then Balliol College, Oxford in 1954, as a Scholar in Classical Studies and as Craven Fellow. He then attended the British School at Rome, retaining strong links with both the school and Italy throughout his lifetime. After becoming PS Allen Junior Research Fellow and obtaining a Masters from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1960 Frederiksen became a fellow and tutor in Ancient History at Worcester College. Unfortunately Frederiksen was killed whilst crossing an Oxford road in July 1980, causing a great loss to classical scholarship both in England and Italy.
Frederiksen’s archive contains 1,183 35mm slides that he had collected or taken throughout his career as well as a number of photographs and negatives of all shapes and sizes. Both media mainly portray the Roman archaeological sites that he visited or was interested in.
From my first look into our newly acquired collection, the majority of the archive itself appears to be in a reasonable condition, with the exception of a few of the slides with a fetching pink tinge as the cyan and yellow dyes have faded. I have, however, encountered challenges with the containers that a number of the slides are housed. Within the collection are two leather slide cases with red interiors that, fortunately for the slides inside, managed to escape the mould that has encroached on the exterior. We had noted that this archive did seem to smell and now we have found and dealt with the source.
Although some of the collection consists of original images taken by Frederiksen, a large number are duplicates which he purchased throughout his career. Frederiksen’s archive includes what appear to be photographs by Fratelli Alinari. Alinari, being established in 1852, is the oldest photographic company in the world and is still active today. The presence of one particular Alinari image within Frederiksen’s collection is particularly interesting due to an image of the Casa di Pansa in Pompeii: a very similar view has already been uploaded onto the Historic Environment Image Resource.
Through comparing the two images we have been able to find that Frederiksen’s Alinari image from Pompeii pre-dates the view of the Casa di Pansa we have already uploaded, illustrating the changes that have occurred over time. This therefore shows the relevance and usefulness of even duplicated images within the archive.
The fact that a large portion of Frederiksen’s collection is not his original work then poses the question: is this archive still relevant? Aside from the potential of the images in understanding how landscapes have changed over time (as part of the HEIR project) it is of interest to us as an assemblage – a purposeful collection of objects and images illustrating Frederiksen’s scholarship, locating his ideas in time, space and material cultural context.
So, what now? Due to the archives’ current home in cardboard boxes and mouldy slide cases, my next job is to clean and re-house the 35mm slide collection into the appropriate archival boxes and find the best way to store the wide size range of photographs. This will not only make it much easier when it comes to cataloguing the contents of the archive, in order to make the archive more accessible, and help to prevent any further damage to Frederiksen’s archive, but will enable us to have a better understanding of what exactly we have acquired and what we can learn from the collection.’
Ellen has been volunteering in the archive for several years while studying for her BA in English and History at Oxford Brookes University. She will soon be beginning a postgraduate course in archives…