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!

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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

Visit to Souda Bay War Cemetery, Crete

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Me at Souda Bay. The beach and War Cemetery in the background.

In April I was lucky enough to visit Crete twice. On the first of these visits I made my way to Souda Bay War Cemetery, just outside of Chania, to see John Pendlebury’s final resting place.

Souda Bay is one of the most tranquil spots that I visited in Crete. The water in the bay is as placid as a lake, a peaceful sandy beach runs between the sea and cemetery, and the cemetery itself is well cared for with lush green grass and plants surrounding the site.

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Main entrance to Souda Bay War Cemetery
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Souda Bay War Cemetery

This is, in fact, John Pendlebury’s 3rd resting place. Though the circumstances of his death (and whether or not he was actually dead) were sketchy for some time after the events, the details are now clearer. This is thanks to a concerted effort on Hilda Pendlebury’s part to establish what had happened to her husband in the confusion of the May 1941 Battle of Crete.

Material in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive includes testimonials gathered from local Cretans who interacted with John during his last hours, letters between Hilda Pendlebury and Herbert Pendlebury about John’s death, and letters from some who were with John in Crete such as Lieutenant Commander Mike Cumberlege (who died in 1945).

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John Pendlebury’s grave, Souda Bay War Cemetery

The exact circumstances of John’s death are detailed in ‘John Pendlebury in Crete’ (250 copies printed for private circulation in 1948). To summarise: on the 21 May 1941 John was wounded in battle outside of Canea Gate in Heraklion, taken prisoner and deposited in a local house for treatment; a new German unit arrived the next day, searched the house, took John outside and shot him; he was first buried near the main road from Heraklion to the west; later he was moved to the British part of the Heraklion cemetery; and then to Souda Bay War Cemetery.

On my second visit to Crete, we (I was with British School colleagues) visited the cemetery that John was buried in, and Pendlebury Street outside Canea Gate which should be (more or less) the site of John’s death/first burial.

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A sign on Pendlebury street, “English Archaeologist, fell in the Battle of Crete”

 

Weeks 13 & 14, 11th-22nd Jan

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Photograph of John Pendlebury taken during his honeymoon (22 Sep 1928). Reference: PEN 2/2/3/7. Copyright: The British School at Athens

These past 2 weeks have been all about cataloguing the travel logs which I discussed in my previous post. I am currently part way through the 5th (of 6), and these have followed John and Hilda’s travels up to 1931 so far.

Most of the items in the travel logs are small photographs that have been stuck in and labelled by John. John’s captions should be very helpful when I come on to cataloguing the section of loose photographs (many of which are not labelled), as I believe there are possibly photographs printed from the same negatives or at least from the same occasions.

It has been interesting to look at photographs of places in Greece and Italy (John and Hilda visited archaeological sites in Sicily and mainland Italy from December 1929 to January 1930), but I have also enjoyed the photographs of people. Most of the people featured are mentioned in letters, or in other papers, in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. Having photographs of these individuals helps to bring the papers to life.

Here are some of my favourites from the last 2 weeks.

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Photographs from a 2 day trip to Khalkís, Erétria and Thebes from Athens (March 1930). Copyright: The British School at Athens
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Photographs of John and Hilda Pendlebury during their honeymoon (September 1928). Copyright: The British School at Athens
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Photographs from a day trip which Hilda and John went on to Vouliagméni (near Athens), 19 May 1928. Copyright: The British School at Athens

 

 

Week 12, 4th – 8th Jan

This week I have had a break from cataloguing letters, and started cataloguing travel logs within the John Pendlebury Family Papers. Cataloguing the letters has been taking a long time as they are so detailed and there are so many of them (1125 in total). We decided it would be best for me to move on to another section for a while so that I can get some of the material ready for digitisation quicker, but also because the letters and travel logs relate to each other.

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

The travel logs that I am cataloguing now are from the same period as letters that I have already catalogued. They are helping me to add extra detail to the descriptions of the letters, and I am adding cross references into the descriptions for the letters and the travel logs. This should be helpful for future researchers.

At the beginning of the week the BSA Archivist and I discussed how to best structure the descriptions of the travel logs. The travel logs are notebooks with itineraries, descriptions and a lot of small photographs stuck inside. Each photograph is to be catalogued to item level and there will also be a higher level description of the volume. We thought about how things will be numbered in the digitisation process to make sure that everything has a unique reference number, and that the reference numbers for the digital images and physical items match up. We had to consider that double page spreads will be captured in the digitisation process, and whilst these are not to have their own catalogue description they will be numbered.

The travel logs in the John Pendlebury Family Papers are a series of 6 volumes. The first volume was compiled by Herbert Pendlebury (John’s father), whilst the others were compiled by John.

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First page of travel log of John Pendlebury’s trip to Greece with Mr Cullen, 1923. Copyright: British School at Athens

For the first travel log Herbert wrote out extracts of John’s letters sent home from Greece in 1923, and photographs have been added to the volume (presumably after John’s return). John had travelled to see archaeological sites with James Cullen (a young Classics master) during the Easter holidays of his final year at Winchester College. The travel log not only documents the pair’s tour of archaeological sites in Greece, but also their journey through Europe.

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Photographs of James Cullen and John Pendlebury with locals in [Livadeia], Central Greece, 1923. Copyright: British School at Athens
The travel logs are a fascinating and detailed record of John and Hilda’s travels in Greece and Sicily, and also John’s trips to Iraq, Syria and Palestine (in 1935) and East Africa (in 1938). I have found it very interesting to see John, Hilda and their travelling companions’ photographs of sites that I recognise in Athens and Corinth.

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Travel log containing photographs of sites in Athens, 1923. Copyright: British School at Athens

So far I have catalogued the first travel log from 1923, and partially catalogued “Greece 1927-28 Vol. I”. Next week I will continue cataloguing the travel logs.

Week 9, 30th Nov-4th Dec

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A file of letters sent to Lilian and Herbert Pendlebury from John Pendlebury whilst he was at Winchester College. Copyright: The British School at Athens

Whilst completing the catalogue descriptions of John’s letters to his parents from Winchester College I discovered more about the terminology that I was puzzling over last week. This terminology is called ‘notions’. There have been official books of the terms published, and John refers to spending time learning them in his letters. The number of notions in use has declined over time, but there is still a current booklet which pupils of the College can purchase and a glossary of some of the terms on Winchester College’s website.

I also discovered that Winchester College Football is a distinct game from football, and that both are played at the College (and were played by John). Depending on the context and terminology used it is usually possible to determine which sport John was discussing in his letters. He was a very sporting pupil and as well as playing  both types of football he took part in activities including competitive rifle shooting, cricket, fives, athletics (hurdles and high-jump) and the Steeplechase race.

After finishing the first draft of the descriptions of John’s letters to his parents from Winchester, I checked through the descriptions again making additions and adjustments. I found I was able to make more sense of some of the letters once I had learnt more about the Winchester College environment and context that John was writing in.

I have now moved on to cataloguing John’s letters to his father which were written whilst he was based here, at the British School at Athens, from 1927-28. John arrived in November 1927 with a studentship and a task to trace all archaeological finds of Egyptian origin in Greece up to 664 BC. His letters to his father reveal first impressions of the British School and his fellow residents, including his future wife Hilda White.

…Miss White who alone of the lot strikes one as being at all human, she reminds me of Vera rather. The rest are definitely sub-human.” (20 Nov 1927)

“I only wish everyone wouldn’t be so obviously learned to the eyebrows. It makes me feel like such an impostor being here at all.” (20 Nov 1927)

The British School residents wasted no time in organising expeditions to other parts of Greece. The letters I have been cataloguing are full of descriptions of trips to Thessaly, the Argolid and Crete – which has prompted regular searches on Google maps!

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A map of John’s trip around Eastern Crete with Hilda White, Vivien Whitfield and Margaret Rodger (from the British School at Athens) in 1928. From a letter to Herbert Pendlebury. Copyright: The British School at Athens

John’s letters from Greece are written solely to his father. His mother, Lilian Pendlebury, had died of heart failure in September 1921 when she was only 50 and John was just 16. The archive does not tell us much of John’s reaction to this tragedy as there is a gap in the surviving correspondence between March 1921 and November 1927.

The only material within the John Pendlebury Family Papers dating from the mid-1920s are a few letters sent to Herbert about John from Winchester College and Pembroke College, a travel log of John’s travels in Greece in 1923, some school notebooks containing essays, and a hand-drawn plan of Tanagra (from John’s travels in 1923). I am not yet certain whether the letters from the schools to Herbert contain much about John’s reaction to the death of his mother, but this will become clear once they are catalogued.

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Herbert Pendlebury, photograph in the John Pendlebury Family Papers. Copyright: The British School at Athens

So why is there a gap in the letters? Perhaps John ceased writing, or (as I believe to be more likely) the letters have been lost. He certainly did write to Herbert from Greece in 1923, as those letters were transcribed by Herbert into the 1923 travel log. Herbert moved to Malvern to live with his new wife, Mabel Dickinson (“Dickie”), in 1925. So perhaps the letters were lost in the move.

This week I will continue cataloguing John’s letters sent to his father from Greece in 1927-28, and then hopefully move on to his letters from London (when preparing for his marriage to Hilda White in 1928), Greece (during his honeymoon) and Egypt (1928-29).

 

About John and Hilda Pendlebury…

John and Hilda Pendlebury (née White) first met at the British School at Athens in 1927.  Hilda was taking a sabbatical year from being a school teacher and John had been given a studentship to trace Egyptian finds in Greece. Together with other students from the school they travelled around Greece, hiking and visiting archaeological sites. In September 1928 John and Hilda were married in Britain.

John and Hilda Pendlebury on their wedding day, from the Pendlebury Family Papers. Copyright: British School at Athens
John and Hilda Pendlebury on their wedding day, from the Pendlebury Family Papers. Copyright: British School at Athens

In the following years of their marriage John worked as an archaeologist at Knossos, Tell el Amarna (in Egypt) and various sites around the Lasithi Plain in East Crete. Hilda often worked with John, but did not always accompany him once their children (David and Joan) were born in 1932 and 1934.

During the Second World War John was in Crete, utilising his knowledge of the language and topography of the island, and his extensive network of local friends, whilst working for the British Special Operations Executive (undercover as Vice-Consul).

John died during the German invasion of Crete in May 1941, but the exact circumstances of his death were not known for certain until years later. Hilda and John’s father (Herbert) undertook substantial investigations (which are documented in the archive) to find out what exactly had happened to John.

John’s final resting place is in Souda Bay War Cemetery in Crete, which Hilda visited whilst attending a memorial service in Heraklion in 1947.