Closing a Project, Opening a Collection to the World

This week after all the data of the John Pendlebury Family Papers catalogue, structured in different spreadsheets and csv files according to its hierarchical structure, was imported into the EMu collection management system, the Pendlebury Archive Project came to a close. Over the past few days, I have been checking possible anomalies in the data imported and correcting them together with Dr Chavdar Tzochev, IT Officer at the British School at Athens. The data of the catalogue will be available online at the end of the year, and I am really looking forward to seeing the result of all these months of work available worldwide.

Over the past few weeks, as well as completing the processing of the Pendlebury collection, I assisted the Library team on the 3rd of July with a visit to the BSA from a group of representatives of the British Academy formed by Professor John Baines, Professor Charles Tripp and Vivienne Hurley, Director of Research Funding and Policy. For their visit to the Archive, I selected a number of items from the Pendlebury collection and explained the cataloguing and digitisation process as well as some aspects of John’s life through the material on display.


Notebook travel log, compiled by John Pendlebury, containing photographs and details of trips to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, etc, in 1933 [PEN 2/2/5] on display for the visit. Copyright: British School at Athens.

Last week, I was also fortunate enough to visit the recently renovated Archives at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, where I was able to admire materials such as the Heinrich Schliemann Papers. Collaborations between the two Schools, who are also neighbours, have been firmly rooted over the years through projects like AMBROSIA, a union library catalogue developed by the Library teams of both institutions.

I am writing this post on my last day of work and looking back at these five and a half months at the BSA Archive, I find my time here has been fascinating from many perspectives: I finished off sections of the catalogue to item level that Madelin Evans, the previous project assistant, was not able to fully complete, I prepared the remaining material to be digitised, and, lastly and most challenging, I assessed and curated the digital data to be uploaded into EMu. Actually, familiarising myself with this sophisticated and complex collection management system has been one of the highlights of my learning experience at the BSA Archive. In addition to these tasks, I also processed almost 2,500 nitrate photographic negatives and a number of glass negatives integrating them into the catalogue. During this process, I learned the policy and procedures for preservation of photographic material followed by the BSA which also led me to do some research about similar procedures developed by institutions such as the British Library and the Library of Congress.

Photographic negative of “Rock Houses under Phira”, [Thíra], Santorini [PEN 7/5/16/34]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

It has been really inspiring to work with this sort of material for the first time in my career. The photographic negatives and positive prints within the collection, mostly taken by John and Hilda Pendlebury and their friends on their travels around Europe, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, etc, have great historical and cultural value. Together with the rest of the very rich material in the Pendlebury collection, they help to better contextualise the life and work of John Pendlebury, his family and friends (the lives of amazing figures such as Marion Pascoe Sarafis and Mercy Money-Coutts Seiradaki), as well as some of the aspects of daily life in Greece and England during that unique period of time before the Second World War.

Photograph of John Pendlebury drinking from a glass bottle and sitting on rocks in shorts, at “Porto Raphte” [Porto Rafti, Markopoúlou, Órmos] [PEN 2/2/4/361]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

In fact, to have been able to process the collection at the British School at Athens, where John spent so many years working, and to travel to places like Knossos, Sounion, Hydra, Aegina, etc, in Greece, which frequently appear in John’s papers, have facilitated my work and have made it even more interesting and exciting.

However, my learning experience in Athens has not been limited to the Pendelbury archive project. The British School at Athens, with its very vibrant and collaborative environment offering great seminars and events, has also been a source of inspiration, and has helped me to revisit my years as an undergraduate student of History and Archaeology with a different perspective.  It has been a real privilege and an invaluable experience to work for the School and I really hope my collaboration with them can continue, in some way, at some point in the future.

Me at the Taverna in Knossos (May 2018).

They were taken for spies

Over the past few weeks, I have been creating and filling several spreadsheets and csv files containing the data of the John Pendlebury Family Papers catalogue. These files, which will be imported into the EMu collection management software, reflect the hierarchical structure of the catalogue according to the ISAD(G) standard and will form the basis of the online data displayed of the Pendlebury collection at the end of the year.

This task, frequently arduous and repetitive, has given me a broad perspective of all the elements which form the collection: their provenance and their chronology, as well as the different people who populate it. One very significant figure who appears frequently within these papers is, in fact, Mercy Money-Coutts. Mercy, whose collection is also held at the BSA archive, worked with John Pendlebury on excavations and accompanied him on many journeys around Greece. They shared photographs and negatives from their adventures together and so, naturally, there is a lot of cross-over and duplication of photographs between the two collections. I was curious about this very prominent figure in the Pendlebury adventures and so tried to find out a bit more about her life.

Photograph of Mercy Money-Coutts at Knossos, Crete (1937) [PEN 7/2/6/667]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

Penny Wilson-Zarganis, our wonderful Head Librarian at the British School at Athens, remembered Mercy as a very reserved and talented woman from a three-month period in 1977 when she was working for the School´s Library. But Mercy’s relationship with the BSA goes back even further in time. Born in 1910 into an aristocratic family in Devon (England), Mercy studied at the University of Oxford where she received her BA Honours in 1932. She developed an interest in eastern Mediterranean archaeology whilst she was an undergraduate student and contacted Sir Arthur Evans wanting to join the new excavations in Crete. Mercy was one of the five women admitted to the British School at Athens for the 1933-1934 session. She formed a lasting friendship with Edith Eccles, who was also admitted that session and shared Mercy’s interest in Minoan pottery.

Mercy studied prehistoric pottery during her first winter at Athens. In the spring, she and Edith Eccles travelled to Crete, where they assisted John in completing the catalogue of the Stratigraphical Museum at Knossos. This catalogue, of which I talked about in my previous post, was the result of a project in which they transferred sherds from the Palace into 2000 boxes and assigned numbers and dates to them.  So began the collaboration between Mercy and John which continued with her invaluable assistance in his excavations in the Lasithi Plain between the years 1936-1939, as well as with the publications of this work afterwards. Over four years, the team partially excavated ten sites ranging in date from Neolithic cave burials, Early and Middle Bronze Age settlements and burials, a Late Bronze Age refugee settlement and a number of Iron Age buildings. Mercy, who had excellent drawing skills, helped to illustrate most of the finds in these excavations, including metal objects and pottery. During this time she also organised the Knossos section of the exhibition held at Burlington House in London in 1936 in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the British School at Athens.

Photograph of Mercy Money-Coutts and [Emmanuel G. and Emmanuel I. Tsoukakis, guides] standing at summit on Spathi, Crete (1935) [PEN 7/2/6/391]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

Like the Pendleburys, Mercy loved to travel. In April 1934, together with John and Edith Eccles, she explored Central Crete in search of new sites as well as to visit known ones. Those trips are reflected in the article “Journeys in Crete, 1934” by John Pendlebury, Edith Eccles, and Mercy Money-Coutts, published in The Annual of the British School at Athens, volume 33 (1932-1933). In 1936, following up an interest in the relations between Minoan and Oriental Cultures, she travelled to Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, and in 1938 and 1939, Mercy explored the Cycladic islands, visiting Melos, Paros, Kimolos, Syros, Naxos and other islands looking for ancient sites. In a letter written by John to Hilda, he mentioned one of these trips in which he and Mercy “were taken for spies”.

Letter from “your loving Husband” to “My own darling” [John Pendlebury to Hilda Pendlebury] from Knossos (5 May 1939) [PEN 1/2/1/2/9]. Copyright: British School at Athens.
Fragment of the article “Journeys in Crete, 1934” by John Pendlebury, Edith Eccles, and Mercy Money-Coutts, published in The Annual of the British School at Athens, volume 33 (1932-1933).
Photograph of Mercy Money-Coutts and John Pendlebury at Engarais [Eggarés], Naxos [Náxos, Nísos] (2 April 1939). Copyright: British School at Athens.

Like John and many other British archaeologists, Mercy took an active part in WWII. She spent the first years working in a department of the Foreign Office at Bletchley Park, England; a secret intelligence department where the German cipher code was cracked in 1940. In 1944, perhaps wanting to get back to Crete, she joined the British Red Cross and was sent to Egypt. That same year, Mercy and Edith Eccles travelled from Libya to the south coast of Crete with a fisherman on a boat, and then walked on their own to the Taverna, in Knossos, where they decided to stay until the end of the war. Mercy joined the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) which helped deliver relief supplies to war-stricken villages.  She later received the Bronze Medal of the Greek Red Cross for her work during the war. It was while working with UNRRA that she met her future husband, Michaeli Seiradakis. Mercy and Michaeli married in 1947 and settled in a house by the sea in Halepa, a suburb of Chania. They had two children: John and Sophia. During the following years, Mercy completed a publication on the collection of pottery from the refugee site of Karphi, for volume 55 of the Annual of the BSA (1960).

In 1962, the Seiradakis family moved from Halepa to Athens, and in 1965, Mercy started to work on a voluntary basis for three days a week in the BSA Library which she did for the next eight years. In 1991, the family moved to Thessaloniki, where their son, John, had settled with his family. Mercy died there in 1993.

I have only quickly summarised Mercy Money-Coutts’s really fascinating life here today in my blog post. Looking at her photographs and reading about her, gives one a sense she was a very strong and resourceful woman, who was, definitely, a key figure in the life and work of John Pendlebury.


Impressions of Knossos

In my last post, I talked about how John Pendlebury was captivated by the culture, countryside, and the people of Crete and so last week I finally had the opportunity to experience this myself by visiting the island and staying at the famous ‘Taverna’.

The ‘Taverna’, named after a Turkish taverna originally located on the lower floor of the building during the 19th century, is now part of the premises of the BSA Knossos Research Centre. An extension of the building in 1928 provided accommodation to female students, who were not allowed to stay at the Villa Ariadne, and was completed after 1933, on the advice of Ralph Lavers, John Pendlebury’s architect at Tel Amarna. During my stay at the Taverna, and thanks to the guidance of Dr. Kostis Christakis, the current Knossos Curator, I was able to see the excellent work the Knossos Research Centre is doing in Crete, and learn about the history of the Villa Ariadne and the Knossos Estate, acquired by Sir Arthur Evans in 1899 and transferred to the BSA in 1926. I also found out more about the work carried out by John Pendlebury when he was Curator at Knossos between 1930 and 1934.

The Taverna at Knossos (May 2018)

The Knossos Curator post was created by Sir Arthur Evans in 1926 as he wanted to have a resident supervisor on the site. The first Curator was Duncan Mackenzie (1926-1929), followed by John Pendlebury in 1930. John was only 25 years old when he was appointed, but he already had substantial experience as an archaeologist at his excavations in Egypt. He also made a number of important changes in the centre such as setting up the first library in Knossos with a donated spare copy of his own book,  Aegyptiaca, as the first volume in the library. The rest of books for this first phase of the library were purchased with a donation of £50 by Sir Arthur Evans. John also established the first ‘Stratigraphical Museum’ at Knossos after organising and dating 2,000 boxes of pottery sherds found in excavations over the years and stored in the Palace of Knossos.

‘Aegyptiaca: A Catalogue of Egyptian Objects in the Aegean Sea’. Volume donated to the BSA Knossos Research Centre Library by John Pendlebury.

While in Knossos, I was fortunate enough to visit the ‘new’ Stratigraphical Museum, which was established in 1962. This building, placed over Pendlebury´s old tennis court, houses an immense collection of archaeological finds from the Knossos Valley and is currently being catalogued into EMu (Electronic Museum Collection Management System) by Danae Lange, Knossos Curatorial Manager, and Helen Makrygiorgou, Knossos Curatorial Assistant. Danae kindly took the time to tell me about the cataloguing procedures for the objects in the Stratigraphical Museum. This was a very interesting learning experience for me because, even though, we both use the same software to catalogue, the methodology in arranging archaeological and archival material is very different. Categorizations are applied differently to objects and paper based collections. However, we also face similar problems and challenges, like agreeing on the standardization of geographical place names when these names are not only in two different languages but also transliterated into several versions. Basically, we both have the same final aim in our work which is to offer to researchers as much information as possible about the collections. In this sense, EMu has immense potential because it links several collections of diverse type (archival, archaeological, and bibliographical catalogues) into the same platform creating a very dynamic tool.

Pottery boxes kept at the ‘new’ Stratigraphical Museum at the BSA Knossos Research Centre.
Photograph of the old tennis court at the Villa Ariadne, Knossos, Crete [PEN 7/2/5/311]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

My trip to Crete wasn’t limited to Knossos. I traveled to the south of the island, inspired by one of John Pendlebury’s itineraries. It was wonderful to finally see, in person, the very familiar landscapes I’ve got to know over the last months through the photographs in the collection. I also visited the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion and admired the pieces found at the Karphi excavations by John Pendlebury’s team. These pieces are mostly present in Series 4 (Excavation records for excavations in Crete) within the archival collection.

Traveling to Crete has helped me to understand John Pendlebury and his collection better. I can see very clearly now why he was so captivated by the island, and why, coinciding with the anniversary of his death in the battle of Crete this week, he decided to join forces with the allies to protect Crete against the Nazi invasion.

Photograph of John Pendlebury posing with fencing swords at the Villa Ariadne, Knossos, Crete [PEN 7/2/5/248]. Copyright: British School at Athens

Glass negatives, digitisation, and ‘The πιθηκος’

After I finished processing the nitrate film negatives which I talked about in my last post, I moved on to the twenty-four negative booklets (albums) and catalogued them to file level. I also processed two boxes of glass negatives which also form part of the ‘Photographs and collected postcards series’ (PEN 7). These two boxes contain a total of twenty-six glass negatives, most possible gelatin dry plate negatives, which measure 125mm x 175mm. These plates show museum objects, mostly from Knossos, and drawings from Tel el-Amarna.

Photograph of a glass plate negative showing a restoration drawing by E. Gilliéron of the “Captain of the Blacks’ fresco in the House of the Frescos, Knossos [PEN 7/5/26/6]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

Gelatin dry plate negatives replaced collodion glass plate negatives at the end of the 19th century and were extensively used during the beginning of the 20th century until they were replaced by lighter nitrate film negatives. Like the latter, glass negatives are very fragile: they are heavy and subject to breakage, chipping, fractures and delamination of the gelatin image-carrying layer. This type of plate is also vulnerable to oxidative deterioration, which appears as fading, yellowing, and silver mirroring. To prevent deterioration, the plates, together with the nitrate film negatives and photographs, are stored in a cool and dry environment in the Father Edward Bader Photographic Archive Room at the BSA.

Example of the “silver mirroring” effect on one of the glass plate negatives within the collection.

The next task to be done to complete the PEN 7 series was to catalogue the six negative index books, created by John Pendlebury, which refer to the negatives in the albums, and are organised according to the same geographical areas associated with trips around Greece and other Mediterranean countries, as well as England.

The entries for the negatives and negative indexes were the last few needed to complete the Pendlebury catalogue! Therefore, over the last week, I have been selecting and organising  the materials which still need to be digitised. They are the following three series: “Excavation records for excavations in Crete” (PEN 4), “Material relating to the death of John Pendlebury” (PEN 5), and “Collected items relating to the Pendlebury family” (PEN 6).

Preparing these materials for digitisation has given me the opportunity to examine pieces I hadn’t seen yet, such as the papers contained in series PEN 6, which Madelin Evans catalogued before me. This series contains some very interesting documents relating to John’s childhood, education, and early years in Greece including essays about ancient Greek philosophers written by John between 1918 and 1923, a poem titled ´The πιθηκος´, written by John in a mixture of English and Greek and sent to his father whilst he was studying at Winchester College, and a hand-drawn plan of Tanagra (Greece), made by John in the spring of 1923.

School work by John Pendlebury about ancient Greek philosophers [PEN 6/1/5]. Copyright: British School at Athens.
‘The πιθηκος’ (The apes). Poem written by John Pendlebury in February 1919 [PEN 6/1/4]. Copyright: British School at Athens.
Detail of a hand-drawn plan of Tanagra, Greece [PEN 6/1/6]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

But perhaps the most fascinating items are those relating to Crete. It’s well known that John was captivated by the culture, countryside, and people of Crete, and this passion can be seen in papers, such as the poem, ‘Crete! – Crete!’, written by John, and some drawings of traditional Cretan costumes (although the artist is unknown). Finally, I found a transcription of Cretan mantinades, in John’s handwriting, which includes an original couplet written by him.

Poem titled ‘Crete! – Crete!’ by John Pendlebury [PEN 6/1/20]. Copyright: British School at Athens.
Detail of drawings of people [in traditional Cretan costume][PEN 6/1/27]. Copyright: British School at Athens.
Details of ‘ΜΑΤΙΝΑΔΕΣ’ by John Pendlebury [PEN 6/1/21]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

The digitisation of the remaining material is one of the last phases of the John Pendlebury Archive project. Over the next few weeks, I will send all the material to be digitised and will create, together with the BSA’s Archivist, Amalia Kakissis, several spreadsheets and csv files to structure the data contained in the catalogue in a format that can be imported into the EMu collection management software. A new challenge!


Working with Photographic Negatives

I have just finished processing almost 2500 photographic negatives and have come across some very interesting things. These negatives are part of the “Photographs and collected postcards series” (PEN 7), and consist of twenty-four albums of nitrate film negatives, two boxes of glass negatives and six negative index books.


Negative albums in the John Pendlebury Family Papers collection. Copyright: British School at Athens.


The negative albums, organised and kept by John and Hilda Pendlebury, were donated by their daughter, Joan Pendlebury, to the British School at Athens via the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1979. The camera mostly used to take these photos does not survive in the collection, but we have a hint at what it might have looked like from this photo taken of Mercy Money-Coutts using a similar camera. Although other cameras may also have been used since the negatives have different shapes and sizes: a square shape of 60 x 60 mm and a rectangular shape of 60 x 90 mm and 125 x 175 mm.


Hilda Pendlebury and Mercy Money-Coutts. [PEN 7/2/6/693]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

Processing the negatives has been slow and laborious and has involved removing them from the original containers and transferring them into archival grade negative holders as well as giving them an item code, necessary in the cataloguing and digitisation process. Most of the negatives were produced on nitrate cellulose film which is chemically unstable causing volatile deterioration. This film can also be very flammable and capable of sustaining combustion even in the absence of oxygen and underwater. Nitrate film has been the cause of many fires and resulted in innumerable losses of archival records.



While I was processing the negatives, I also had the opportunity to evaluate the conservation conditions for each with the use of a light table which provided an excellent view of their content. I identified some signs of nitrate film deterioration such as the change of clear film to shades of yellow and amber and the fading of the emulsion; the latter takes on a silvery appearance sometimes referred to as “mirroring”. Unfortunately, nitrate film decay is irreversible and autocatalytic. The best thing to do to preserve them, as we are doing in this case, is to take measures to prevent deterioration from continuing further. Before these negatives were stored in proper conditions, some of them started to self-destruct and resulted in the negatives fusing together.


Example of the “mirroring” effect on two of the negatives within the collection.
nigrate negatives destruction sample046
Example of some of the nitrate negatives which have self-destructed.


Now, the Pendlebury negative albums are stored under optimal conditions in the Father Edward Bader Photographic Archive Room at the BSA. This room provides a cool (18ºC) and dry (30-36% relative humidity) environment which is recommended for the preservation of photographic materials.

John Pendlebury appears to have organised these negative albums according to the geographical area associated with trips around Greece and other Mediterranean countries, including Egypt, Italy, Palestine, and Syria, as well as trips back home to England. Each of the negative albums contains an index listing the content of each envelope in each container. Many of the positive prints of these negatives can be found in other sections of the Pendlebury archive such as the travel logs and photographic albums.


Photographic negative [7/5/3/58/1] and positive print [2/2/4/66] of the Temple of Segesta. Copyright: British School at Athens.

The process of handling these negatives has been fascinating. They have the power, perhaps more than positive prints, to transport you to the place where they were taken almost 90 years ago, showing different landscapes, people and ways of life. It is also quite impressive to see how isolated many sites were at the time and reflect on how these have been transformed to become major tourist attractions in Greece today.

To finish this entry, I have selected a few of my favourite photographic negatives in the Pendlebury collection. I hope you like them as much as I do!


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A Dance in the Barracks

Last week I finished cataloguing to item level all the material which hasn’t yet been digitised (excluding photographic negatives). This material included some items relating to John Pendlebury’s death in Crete, in 1941, such as witness statements from Cretans. Most of these statements were written in Greek and later translated into English by Hilda Pendlebury, who was trying to find out what happened to John during the war. Additionally, it contained some items relating to a memorial service for John Pendlebury held on the 2nd of March, 1947, in Heraklion, Crete, that Hilda attended.

Typed copy of the translation into English of “Statement of Aristea Drousoulakis and her sister Theonymphe (wife of Peter Manousakis)”, translated by Hilda Pendlebury [PEN 5/2/1/4] and Narrative of “Aristea, widow of George Drosolakis, and her sister”, handwritten by [R.W. Hutchinson] [PEN 5/2/1/5]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

Another section I completed cataloguing relates to the publication of Archaeology of Crete: An Introduction by John Pendlebury, a book published in 1939. This sub-series comprises the publication agreement between John Pendlebury and Metheun & Co. publishers, signed in 1933, a list of corrections for the book, a promotional leaflet and some book reviews published in journals such as Antiquity, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Nature, The Classical Review, The Antiquaries Journal, etc.

Promotional leaflet of ‘The Archaeology of Crete: An Introduction’, by John Pendlebury (London, 1939) [PEN 3/1/9/3]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

Finally, I catalogued to item level a section relating to the excavation records compiled by John Pendlebury. This extensive section includes photographs and illustrations of archaeological finds from excavations in the Lasithi Plain during 1936-1939, as well as photographs of the excavation itself in progress and some amazing topographical shots of the Lasithi Plain. Many of these photographs and illustrations were published in The Annual of the British School at Athens, specifically in the articles ‘Excavations in the Plain of Lasithi. I. the Cave of Trapeza’, by H.W. Pendlebury, J.D.S. Pendlebury and M.B. Money-Coutts (vol. 36, 1935-1936), ‘Excavations in the Plain of Lasithi. II’, by J.D.S. Pendlebury, M.B. Money-Coutts and H.W. Pendlebury (vol. 38, 1937-1938) and ‘Karphi. A City of Refuge of the Early Iron Age in Crete’ (vol. 38, 1937-1938).

One of the advantages of EMu (the BSA’s collection management software used for museum and archive collections) is that it allows an archived item to be linked to the publications it relates to. For this reason, I have compared all the photographs and illustrations in this section with those published in the articles, in order to write the bibliographic reference of the article in the description of each item and make it easier for researchers to find the material.

Photographs captioned “Clay statues of goddesses 1 and 2 from the Temple [at Karphi]” [PEN 4/3/4/233 – 236]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

The photographs and illustrations in this section are very interesting: pottery, bronze objects, stone objects, and figurines. The photographs of the clay statues of Goddesses 1 and 2, which form part of the photograph album ‘Excavations in Lasithi, Crete, B.S.A.’ really caught my eye. Another image that caught my attention whilst cataloguing this section was that of several men dancing in an excavation at Karphi. The photograph was published in ‘Karphi. A City of Refuge of the Early Iron Age in Crete’ (vol. 38, 1937-1938) and captioned ¨A dance in the barracks¨.

This photograph looked familiar to me, and I realised that I had already seen it in another part of the archive. The photo forms part of a series of twenty photographs included in the album of Pendlebury’s trips around Crete from 1934-1939. The very amusing series documents how some of the men working in the excavation on Saturday, 8th July, 1939, whilst on a break of work, began to sing mantinades and dance. Slowly, more men joined them, and finally, everyone ended up dancing and singing. Every photograph in this photo-story is captioned, and it’s easy to have a clear understanding of what was happening. A short story told in photographs.

Series of 20 photographs documenting men singing and dancing mantinades at Karphi [PEN 7/2/6/893 – 912]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what mantinades (the songs they were singing) were and, I did a bit a research and learned that these are the most common form of folk song in Crete. The origin of the word mantinada (singular of mantinades) is the Venetian “matinada”, which means “morning song”. Every mantinada consists of 15-syllable rhyming couplets in the dialect of the island, and they are normally performed in accompaniment of the lyre. The songs, which can be satiric and also didactic, express many and different emotions such as sorrow, joy, hope, desire, love, anger, revenge or nostalgia. Most of them are dedicated to love and romance, but there are others dedicated to everyday life, exile, and death.

I have recently been listening to some songs on YouTube, and they are great. There is something new to learn every day working with the John Pendlebury Papers! The next new challenge will be the photographic negatives, fragile and fascinating… I’ll keep you posted!




Awesome Women in the John Pendlebury Family Papers

Over the last two weeks, I have catalogued some of the photograph albums that form part of the John Pendlebury Family Papers collection. As I wrote in my previous post, I started cataloguing one of the photograph albums containing handwritten itineraries and photos of Pendlebury’s trips around Crete from 1934-1939.

One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had to face whilst carrying out this task has been to indentify people included in the photographs. It hasn’t been easy; most of the photographs included in the album have a caption, but sometimes the handwriting is difficult to understand and other times there is no caption at all. I have, however, had great help from work carried out by my predecessor, Madelin. The great level of detail so far included in the catalogue has helped me to compare names and dates -even faces!- and the rest of the collection has given me some broader context regarding the people surrounding John Pendlebury at that particular moment of his life. Identifying these people has been, somewhat, like solving a puzzle!

Whilst I was cataloguing photographs taken during the excavations in Tzermiadho (Crete) in the summer of 1937, one in particular caught my eye. This photograph shows a woman from behind, smiling as she peers back at the camera. Next to her, a man also looks at the camera, in mockery. The photograph is captioned: ‘Vincent Desborough and Marion Pascoe’. Intrigued by this photo but, especially, by this woman, I did a bit of research into her background, and the story I found was fascinating:

Photograph captioned ‘Vincent Desborough and Marion Pascoe’ [PEN 7/2/6/728]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

Marion Pascoe Sarafis, archaeologist, activist and writer, was born in December 1913, the only child of an Anglo-Austrian family resident in Woking, England. Her childhood papers, covering the years 1913 -1938 are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. Marion’s father, Wallis Pascoe, was a stockbroker, and the family lived at ‘Bracken Hill’, a large Victorian house. It was in this house that Marion was educated by her mother, Anne Harding Kliamanek, until being sent to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in 1925. Outgrowing the Convent’s limited academic opportunities, Marion yearned to go to University and, in 1932, after being coached in ancient Greek by a priest, she finally gained a place at Oxford University to read Classics.

After graduating from Oxford University, Marion took a postgraduate archaeology course at Cambridge, and then in 1936 travelled to Athens where she joined the British School at Athens the same year. The School Annual Report for the session 1936-1937 states of her time in Greece:

Miss M. Pascoe, B.A. – Society of Oxford Home-Students. Carried out a preliminary investigation of the Hagia Marina pottery, and assisted in Mr. Pendlebury’s excavations in Crete’

 According to the Annual Reports, Marion worked with the BSA for the next two years. In 1937, she worked at Chaeronea, on the prehistoric sites in the vicinity of Smokovo and Lake Xynias, and in Athens on the prehistoric pottery from Hagia Marina and Drachmani, as well as visiting Ithaca and Milos. In May and June of that year, she helped with excavations in Crete. During 1938, she completed her work at Chaeronea and helped with the excavations at Karphi. In 1939, whilst in Milos, she met her future husband, General Stefanos Sarafis (1890-1957), a leftist republican, who was exiled from the mainland for his political ideas. Their incipient friendship was, however, broken off by the Second World War.

From the ‘British School Annual Report for the session 1936-1937’. Copyright: British School at Athens
Photographs of the excavations at Karphi in the summer of 1938. Copyright: British School at Athens.


During the war, Marion returned to England where she became a founder member of the League for Democracy in Greece, which campaigned for the release of imprisoned resistance fighters and also lobbied for human rights in the country. In 1951, she also edited a book in English about the Greek Resistance Army. She finally returned to Greece in 1952 and married General Sarafis the same year. The couple lived in Athens for the next five years, and they had a daughter, Lee Sarafis. Those were years of tireless political activism, campaigning for the United Democratic Left Party. Unfortunately, in 1957, Marion and her husband were involved in a car accident in Athens, and General Sarafis was killed. Marion was also severely injured in the crash.

After this episode, Marion Pascoe Sarafis returned to Bracken Hill, where she spent the rest of her life pursuing her interests: reading English, French, German, Modern Greek and Latin. She retained her Greek citizenship and was an active campaigner during the 1967-74 Colonels’ dictatorship. She also worked on books on the Greek resistance as well as for the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles and always retained her interest in Greece. Marion died in 1999.

It’s amazing the stories that can be found behind a simple photograph, isn’t it? These chance encounters whilst working with archive material make such incredible moments and so I am dedicating this blog entry to Marion Pascoe Sarafis in celebration of Women’s History Month, by telling the story of this really awesome woman.

Greetings from the new Project Assistant for the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive

My name is Laura, and I have been appointed as the new Pendlebury Archive Project Assistant at the British School at Athens. Before moving to Athens, I lived and worked in Glasgow for five years, where I was an archive assistant for different organisations such as the Scottish Music Centre, the National Library of Scotland and Glasgow University Archive Services. It was at the University of Glasgow that I completed my MSc. in Information Management and Preservation in 2016.

I will be picking up this project where Madelin, the former Project Assistant who finished a large part of the work before leaving Athens for a new job opportunity in Cambridge, left off. And so, over the next four months I will see the Pendlebury Project to completion by finishing up the last bits of item level cataloguing and organising the remaining material to be digitised. After all the material has been processed, I will assess the digital data together with the BSA’s Archivist, Amalia Kakissis, to prepare it to be uploaded to EMu (the BSA’s collection management software used for museum and archive collections). The last part of the project will be to curate the digital data after the catalogue and digital images have been imported into EMu and make the Pendlebury Family Papers available online!

My aim during my first week at the BSA has been to familiarise myself with the material which forms the John Pendlebury Family Papers collection. This is a very rich collection which consists of correspondence, travel logs, and photographs as well as negatives, as Madelin has described in previous entries in this blog. The collection is fascinating. If I had to choose my favourite find of this first week, it would be the copy of Howard Carter’s letter to the Editor of The Illustrated London News on 30 May 1933. In this letter, Carter, who became a famous archaeologist after discovering the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt, thanks the Editor for sending him a letter from John Pendlebury where he describes his discoveries, including sculpture, at El Amarna, in Egypt. I read about Carter’s work during my degree in History at the University of Murcia, in Spain. In particular, I remember reading ‘Gods, Graves & Scholars: The Story of Archaeology’ by C.W. Ceram in my first year. Published in 1949, this book gives a romantic glimpse into the life and work of Carter and other archaeologists who worked in Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia and South America. I feel very lucky to be able to work with this material!

Copy of a letter to the Editor of The Illustrated London News from Howard Carter, [1933]. Copyright: The British School at Athens
Copy of a letter to the Editor of The Illustrated London News from Howard Carter, [1933]. Copyright: The British School at Athens
Other items that have caught my eye are the excavation records and photographic material relating mainly to Crete. In fact, my task during this first week is to finish cataloguing one of the photograph albums containing handwritten itineraries and photos of Pendlebury’s trips around Crete from 1934 to 1939. Let’s see where these trips take me. I’ll keep you posted!

Reflections on my time as Project Assistant for the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive: 8 months of John Pendlebury and family, archaeology, travel, photographs and digitisation

Back in the summer of 2015, after a Skype interview, I was lucky enough to be appointed as the Project Assistant for the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive Project. I moved to Athens and the project commenced at the beginning of October. I started to learn a great deal about the Pendlebury family, archaeology and Greece.

Postcards of Athens, [c. 1927-28], from Hilda Pendlebury’s travel scrapbook. Copyright: The British School at Athens
I spent a fascinating 8 months cataloguing the archive in detail, repackaging the archive, and working with a local digitisation office to organise the digitisation of the archive. By the time I left at the end of June the archive was fully catalogued (mostly to item-level) and the photograph albums, letters and travel logs were digitised. These 3 sections are the richest in the archive and contain a multitude of early 20th century photographs of Greece, details of many trips taken by John and Hilda Pendlebury, and family letters covering the whole of John Pendlebury’s life.  

Travel log containing photographs and extracts from John Pendlebury’s letters to his father, from Greece 1923. Copyright: British School at Athens

Many of these family letters were written during John Pendlebury’s time as a student at Winchester College (1918-1923). I am very grateful to the Wykeham patrons (supporters of Winchester College) who generously funded my work and the digitisation work which was carried out.

There is still some work to be done on completing the digitisation, inputting catalogue data onto EMu (the BSA’s cataloguing software), and linking the digital images to catalogue entries. In an ideal world I would have been able to complete all these tasks, but as the project progressed it became clear that this would not be possible. We had to prioritise tasks but also made a huge leap forward towards completion.

I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to work at the British School at Athens on the John Pendlebury Family Archive. The project was really interesting and I learnt more about archaeology than I realised there was to know. I also gained valuable experience of cataloguing to item-level (which I had rarely done before) and working with EMu.

A page from one of John Pendlebury’s travel logs, containing photographs of a house in Cambridge and of Ralph Lavers (architect) and Herbert Pendlebury (Oct 1934). Copyright: The British School at Athens

I am writing this blog post from an unusually sunny Cambridge, where I am now working as an Assistant Archivist in the Department of Manuscripts and Archives at the University Library. As those who have followed my blog or know about the life of John Pendlebury will realise, he was no stranger to Cambridge. John was a student at Pembroke College and the Faculty of Classics, and John and Hilda lived in various houses in Cambridge between dig seasons in Greece and Egypt. Most mornings I walk past the site of one of their houses (now part of Robinson College).

I hope that my connections with John Pendlebury and the British School at Athens are not completely over, but if they are I will always look back with fond memories.

Approaching Karphi, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

Following John and Hilda Pendlebury’s footsteps in Crete

My 2nd trip to Crete was with the British School at Athens’ Archivist (Amalia Kakissis) and the School’s current Early Career Fellow (Roderick Bailey). We stayed at the British School in Knossos, and together with staff from Knossos followed Pendlebury’s footsteps in Crete. Well…we selected which footsteps to follow as we only had a few days. Over the 14 years that John Pendlebury spent time in Crete he (often accompanied by his wife Hilda) travelled the length and breadth of the island, probably more than once.

Landscape near Karphi, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

Whilst visiting Crete, we took the opportunity to recreate some of the photographs in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. You can see some of our efforts in this blog post.

Taverna, British School in Knossos:


First we explored the archaeological site at Knossos where John was curator from 1929 to 1934.

South Propylaeum, Knossos Palace, 1933 (PEN 7/2/5/320). Copyright: BSA
Throne Room, Knossos Palace (May 1928) in a photograph album in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive (PEN 7/2/4/127). Copyright: British School at Athens
Pithos, Knossos Palace, Feb 1928 (PEN 7/2/4/37). Copyright: The British School at Athens
Inscribed stone, Knossos Palace, May 1928 (PEN 7/2/4/128). Copyright: The British School at Athens
John Pendlebury and Rosaleen Angus on the Royal Road, Knossos Palace, Mar-Jun 1933 (PEN 7/2/5/245). Copyright: British School at Athens

Around the Lasithi Plain we visited the sites of Karphi and the Trapeza Cave which John excavated under the BSA in 1936 and 1938, and Tzermiado village (where the excavation team was based).

Approaching Karphi, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens
Karphi (peak) – the settlement is just over the ridge on the right, between the Karphi and Koprana peaks. From a photograph album in the Pendlebury Archive (PEN 7/2/6/549), 24 May 1936. Copyright: British School at Athens

Views from Karphi:


Trapeza Cave:

View from entrance to Trapeza Cave, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens
Trapeza Cave, before excavation. May-Jun 1936 (PEN 7/2/6/517). Copyright: British School at Athens
Trapeza Cave after excavation, May-Jun 1936 (PEN 7/2/6). Copyright: British School at Athens

Dig-house, Tzermiado:

Excavation house in Tzermiado, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

We visited Archanes and the Ideon Cave (birthplace of Zeus) on Mount Ida. These were both places that John and Hilda Pendlebury had been to.

Church in the centre of Archanes, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

The Ideon Cave and views from the cave:


Entrance to Ideon Cave, May 1932 (PEN 7/2/4/405). Copyright: British School at Athens

We also spent some time in Heraklion and I visited the archaeological museum. This is an excellent museum and I really enjoyed seeing finds from Pendlebury’s excavations at the Trapeza Cave and Karphi. For example, I had seen many photographs of a monkey seal in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. Travelling to Crete not only gave me the opportunity to see the cave where it was found (Trapeza), but to see the object on display and have it explained within a wider context. Now that I have seen the excavation sites and finds first hand, cataloguing the excavation records will be all the more enjoyable.

Workers by the Vitzelovrysis Spring near Karphi, 1939. John Pendlebury commissioned the stone surround for the spring. with the lettering designed by Eric Gill. Photograph in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive (PEN 7/2/6). Copyright: British School at Athens
Vitzelovrysi Spring, April 2016. Recreating the original photograph. Copyright: British School at Athens