What’s happening in the archive?

new-rolling-stacksWell, it’s been busy round here. The new rolling stacks have made a big difference to life in the archive. At last the archives are beginning to be more accessible. Thank you, School of Archaeology!

Before the stacks went in, everything that used to be in the basement space had to be cleared out, which led to some interesting new discoveries…

jaquetta-bosIt isn’t too attractive at first sight, but someone had written ‘Jacquetta Hawkes? Portugal?’ on the side, so we started taking everything out of the box and found some treasures, including:
arrowheads

These objects were collected during Jacquetta Hawkes’ trip to Portugal in 1950. We’ve set an undergraduate volunteer onto the task of cataloguing the material and finding out more about it.

There was also evidence of the building’s previous incarnation as home to the Department for the History of Art…library-instructionsUseful advice on how to handle albums. On the subject of albums, new acquisitions  include a set of books and papers..

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The scrapbook belonged to the Reverend Greville John Chester, and the photographs inside appear to come from the Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem in 1864-5, by James McDonald:

jerusalem It’s going to be interesting researching the collection: we’ll be adding the photographs to the HEIR on-line database.

We’ve also been busy with archive visitors, including one who also brought some material for us to look at relating to the Stuart Piggott archive. Piggott wrote some notes about archaeology on a sheet of scrap paper torn in half. Inevitably, we found ourselves more interested in the ‘wrong’ side of the paper, which is a reminder that Piggott was not going to let the small detail of the Second World War and his army enlistment get in the way of research. We suspect Piggott was responsible for the sketch…

piggott-wartime-sketch

 

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Man in the White Hat

Over the past two weeks we have enjoyed the company of Alice Jaspars, a second year undergraduate who followed up excavation in Cyprus over the summer with a fieldwork placement in the archive, finding out more about the history of archaeology there, and in particular delving into the life of Oxford archaeologist John Myres. She writes:

John Linton Myres (1869–1954) (not to be mistaken with his son of an almost identical name) is a man of countless stories, many of which I have been able to acquaint myself with over the past 2 weeks during my work experience in The School of Archaeology’s Archaeological Archives. Some of these anecdotes beg belief, with a personal favourite of mine recounting how Myres, having caught malaria in Cyprus, ended up on a boat sailing to France with nothing but the clothes on his back and a tin of slightly rancid condensed milk. If I have learnt anything from reading Myres’ autobiography and examining his slides, it is that in his life what goes right goes very right, and that everything else makes a stunning story.

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“Levk : bases from N E”: Excavations at Levkoniko by Myres, Menelaos Markides and L. H. D. Buxton 1913. HEIR ID 42196

Myres is perhaps the closest one can come to Oxford personified having spent over 60 years of his life there. His Undergraduate years spent at Hertford College allowed him to make lifelong connections and friendships with the great and the good of his day, as well as creating opportunities for him to excavate. It is during his time at Oxford that Myres was given a £30 grant from the aptly named Cyprus Exploration Fund, to use as he chose within the parameters of a Cypriot Excavation. It is thus Myres was able to become the ‘Father of Cypriot Archaeology’ and alongside German archaeologist Max Ohnefalsch-Richter, he both excavated and wrote up the ‘Catalogue of the Cyprus Museum’. The seasons in which Myres was excavating in Cyprus allowed him to lay out the groundwork for all future Anglo-Cypriot excavations to be based upon.

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Myres in his white hat: HEIR ID 34428

Myres’ white hat preceded him in most situations, and rightly so. It was this which he was encouraged to wear to differentiate himself from all other excavators and to prevent himself from being targeted by bandits. His Norfolk jacket with its 15 pockets also gained a reputation as being part of his digging attire and further contributed towards Myres’ archaeological reputation.

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By looking through Myres’ slides in the archives and reading his words I have been able to expand my knowledge of Cypriot Archaeology and the way in which individuals fit into a greater academic and social network. The life of John L Myres demonstrates the way in which one individual can have countless different identities, and he himself was far more than simply the man in the white hat.

Alice Jaspars  September 2016

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Accessing a new collection: initial thoughts

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.

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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.

inside-the-boxes

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.

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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.

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HEIR image ID 44489

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.

some-of-the-alinari-photos

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.’

About Ellen

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…

 

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A College Responds to the Spanish ‘Flu Outbreak of 1918-19

Archaeologists – at least the ones in our archives – had a knack for using whatever came to hand for their own purposes. This often leads to the preservation of surprising nuggets of social history wedged in between the archaeological research, photographs and correspondence.

This week, a volunteer working on the lantern slide collection found a piece of postcard re-used as a section divider for maps of Asia in a lantern slide draw. The postcard had been sent to Professor John Myres’ home address on Banbury Road.

box 354001On the other side of the card was a summons to a College meeting to discuss ‘the question of inoculation against influenza’:

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In the autumn and winter of 1918-19, the influenza pandemic had led to unprecedented death rates. One of the cruelest aspects of the so-called ‘Spanish ‘flu’ was that it hit young adults particularly hard. The ‘flu died down through the spring and summer of 1919, but as winter approached, another wave of the ‘flu struck, causing widespread illness, though this time it was to be less deadly (Shanks and Brundy 2012).

There was very little that medicine could offer to counter the devastating effects of the ‘flu, but there were attempts to find and use inoculations against its lethal impact, as this little card testifies.

You would think, given ‘the question of innoculation’ was the purpose of the meeting, the dons of New College would have prioritized the matter, but in fact, as Jennifer Thorp, archivist at New College found out, the meeting on November 15th spent too much time discussing outstanding business from the previous meeting (on the 11th) to get around to ‘the question of inoculation’, which was instead discussed at yet another meeting on the 19th! Finally, at this meeting:

‘It was agreed to provide facilities at the beginning of the ensuing Lent Term for the inoculation of members of the college against influenza. The Junior Bursar was requested to make recommendations to a subsequent meeting as to the provision for nursing within the college in the event of an influenza epidemic’ (New Coll. Archives MIN/W&F 6, p. 295).’

Jennifer’s research in the archives suggests that little further action was taken, since the Junior Bursar was never called upon to present their recommendations at any subsequent meeting, and student numbers indicate that New College wasn’t badly affected by influenza. There were only 30 students in residence in the Autumn of 1918, when the ‘flu was at its most lethal – most of the College’s men and staff were still involved in the war effort. Numbers rocketed to 135 in the next term, as students were able to return to College and resume their studies.

The question still remains, however – what were the students to be inoculated with? An effective treatment for ‘flu wasn’t discovered until 1933.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to New College Archvist Jennifer Thorp for providing information on New College meetings and student numbers.

Bibliography

Killingray, D. and Phillips, H. (2003) The Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919: New Perspectives Routledge 

Shanks GD, Brundage JF. Pathogenic responses among young adults during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2012 Feb [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1802.102042

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Repurposing the lantern slide way

One of our volunteers spotted this in one of the Institute’s lantern slide boxes and called it to our attention:

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What was it that attracted his interest? Was it the little round label ‘6054’ which indicated that the slide had originally been one of Sir John Myres’ slides? Was it the beautiful map with incredible detail of ‘Latium and Campania’?

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Here’s Vesuvius and the bay of Naples from the bottom of the map:

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Or was it this?:

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Our volunteer, Robert Petts, is a philatelist and he really knows his stamps. He tells us that this little strip of paper is a re-used edging of a sheet of 1 penny red stamps of Edward VII, printed in 1905. The ‘E’ tells you the part of the year – this sheet of stamps was printed in the first half. The ‘5’ gives you the year. So there you go – it’s amazing what you can learn in the archive when you have great volunteers.

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