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).

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