Weeks 19-22, 29th Feb-25th Mar

During the past 4 weeks of the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive Project I have completed cataloguing the correspondence (though I may return to this section to add more detail), and begun cataloguing photograph albums.

The cataloguing of the correspondence (section 1) was completed with less detail than I was using to describe letters previously. This is so that this section will be ready for digitisation, as explained in my previous post. These less detailed catalogue descriptions still include a title, reference code, previous reference codes, level of description, covering dates, and extent and medium, for each item. The difference between these descriptions and the more detailed ones is that I have not described the content of the letters. I hope to be able to return to this section to add more detail at a later date.

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Letters sent to John Pendlebury’s parents (Herbert and Lilian) about his education. Copyright: The British School at Athens

The letters which I have catalogued in the past 4 weeks include: letters from Hilda Pendlebury to Herbert Pendlebury (John’s father) and Mabel Dickinson (John’s step-mother) sent just after she and John were married; letters to John’s parents about his education; and letters to Hilda’s mother and sister (Dora) from Hilda and John.

After completing the section of correspondence, I moved on to cataloguing photograph albums (in section 7). These are a priority because they are a slightly unknown quantity. What I mean by that is that each photograph is to be catalogued to item level and the number of photographs varies from album to album. There is also duplication of photographic prints between albums; between albums and loose photographs; between albums and negatives; and between albums and travel logs (section 2). This duplication needs to be checked and described in the catalogue (through cross-referencing) to avoid future confusion and digitisation of duplicates.

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Pages from “Album Mycenae” containing a diagram of the Treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agememnon, notes, and photographs of features of the tholos tomb. Copyright: British School at Athens

The first photograph album I catalogued is labelled “Album Mycenae: The Tholos Tombs of Mycenae & elsewhere with The Citadel of Mycenae & its Environs.” This contains plans, notes and photographs and represents John Pendlebury’s work documenting and understanding archaeological sites during his studentship at the British School at Athens (1927-1928).

The volume also contains some, seemingly unrelated, loose photographs of Knossos and a temple in Egypt. Some of these photographs took some time, a bit of detective work, and picking the brains of an archaeologist who knows the subject matter, to be able to catalogue them. It is really very helpful to be surrounded by specialists who know what a specific site looks like or what a type of pottery is called.

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Loose photographs of Knossos found slotted inside “Album Mycenae”. Copyright: The British School at Athens

I have also started cataloguing a photograph album of Greece compiled by Hilda in 1927-1928. I’ve already noted a lot of duplication of photographs which are in John’s travel logs for the same period. This makes a lot of sense as John, Hilda, and other students or members of the British School at Athens, travelled in Greece together during these years and often shared photographs.

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Students of the British School at Athens travelling in Greece: Bob Dixon, Hilda White (later Pendlebury) and John Pendlebury (photograph by Margaret Rodger), [24 Nov 1927]. Copyright: The British School at Athens
Next, I will continue cataloguing photograph albums (there are 7 of these) and then move on to family photographs and bundles of loose photographs. I am hoping to overcome some of the challenges presented by the loose photos (most of which are unlabelled) by cataloguing these after the other photographs. Some may be duplicate prints, or I may be able to identify them more easily as I’ll be more familiar with the subject matter.

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Weeks 15 & 16, 25th-29th Jan & 8th-12th Feb

During the past 2 weeks of the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive Project (with a week-long break in the middle) I have finished cataloguing John’s travel logs, and seen a different perspective on things by cataloguing Hilda’s travel log (there is just one in the archive).

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Pages from one of John Pendlebury’s travel logs, containing photographs of Kodok (Fashoda) in South Sudan and Abu Simbel in Egypt (March 1938). Copyright: The British School at Athens

The last of John’s travel logs was very interesting, and includes some fantastic photographs. It covers a trip to archaeological sites in Iraq (including an Oriental Institute of Chicago excavation at Tell Asmar, and Babylon), Syria, Lebanon and Palestine in 1933; a 2nd trip to Palestine (with Hilda this time) in 1935; a journey from England to Egypt in November 1933 which included stops at Gibraltar and Pompeii; and a trip (which John took alone) to Sudan, Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Egypt (where he met up with Hilda) in 1938. The volume also includes the less exotic locations of the Lake District (Oct 1933) and Hadrian’s Wall (Aug 1937), and photographs of a house in Cambridge that the Pendlebury’s must have been considering renting.

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“Dumping” at the excavation at Khafaje [Khafajah], Iraq, (Feb 1933). Copyright: The British School at Athens
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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

John’s travel log contains a photograph of a Nairn Car in Ramadi, Iraq. I did a little research about these to find out why John may have photographed it. It turns out that the Nairn Transport Company ran a service taking passengers between Beirut and Baghdad from 1923 to 1956, and that the Middle East Centre Archive at St Antony’s College in Oxford has the company’s archive.

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Nairn Car at Ramadi, Iraq (Feb 1933), in one of John Pendlebury’s travel logs. Copyright: The British School at Athens

Hilda Pendlebury’s travel log takes the form of a scrapbook containing a handwritten account, postcards and photographs. The handwritten account is of a trip to Italy (which is undated but judging by the content must have been between 1922 and 1925) which Hilda went on before she met John, and it seems that she travelled from the United Kingdom with a group of archaeologists to see sites around Rome, Naples and Florence. Following the account of her travels to Italy, the scrapbook does not contain any more handwritten accounts but does contain further (mainly unlabeled) photographs and postcards of Cambridge, Melrose Abbey in Edinburgh, Whitby, Venice, Athens, Rhodes and Crete, as well as photographs of John and Hilda’s wedding.

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Part of handwritten account of a trip to Italy, by Hilda Pendlebury, illustrated with postcards and a photograph. [c. 1922-25]. Copyright: The British School at Athens
The photographs of Crete in Hilda’s travel log were unlabeled and hard to identify for the untrained (in archaeology) eye. Luckily I was able to cross reference these photographs with photograph albums of Crete within the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. The photographs in Hilda’s scrapbook turned out to be duplicated in the photograph albums, where they were labeled.

As well as finishing off cataloguing the travel logs I have begun entering catalogue data into EMu (the BSA’s cataloguing software) which I discussed in week 5. I am getting to grips with the software which is a little different from systems that I have used before, and it feels good to have begun getting some of the data into its final form. Entering the data into EMu is a good opportunity to double check my catalogue entries, and to add information or correct things where details have become apparent through familarisation with the archive.

Next week I will continue entering data into EMu and continue cataloguing records of John and Hilda’s travels. Now I have pretty much finished the travel logs, the next section is comprised of accounts of John and Hilda’s travels written much later by Hilda (probably in preparation for a publication).

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Postcards of Athens, [c. 1927-28], from Hilda Pendlebury’s travel scrapbook. 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 10, 7th-11th Dec

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File of letters from John Pendlebury to his father, from Greece. September – October 1928. Copyright: The British School at Athens

This week I have finished cataloguing John’s letters written to his father during his studentship at the BSA (British School at Athens) from November 1927 to May 1928. I have also completed the descriptions for letters that John sent to Herbert (his father) from London and Cambridge during the summer of 1928; and from Athens, the Peloponnese and Thessaloniki in September and October 1928.

The letters sent during John’s studentship contain information relating to an item in the museum collection at the BSA. The correspondence reveals that during a trip to Aegina John and Hilda “picked up” parts of a Minyan bowl near what John described as the temple of Aphrodite (probably the temple of Apollo). Later letters reveal that John gave the fragments of the bowl to the BSA’s collection and that it had been found in a “dump of sherds” left by a German archaeological team during their excavations at the temple. With the help of the BSA Archivist I looked for this item in the museum catalogue, and there it was – or what seems highly likely to be the same bowl.

The information from the John Pendlebury Family papers can be added to the museum catalogue to give the item more context. Here we have a clear example of how cataloguing a specific collection can enrich the overall knowledge of collections, particularly where there are these explicit links.

The letters sent from London and Cambridge in the summer of 1928 include Johns announcement of his engagement to Hilda. John quotes, what can be assumed was Herbert’s letter announcing his engagement to Mabel Dickinson, writing…

‘Your own style is best. “You will probably be surprised to hear that I am engaged” – to Hilda White who got back today from Greece.’

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John and Hilda Pendlebury on their wedding day (15 Sep 1928), from the Pendlebury Family Papers. Copyright: British School at Athens

John and Hilda were engaged in June and married in September. They then returned to Greece for a week-long honeymoon in the Peloponnese and some work in Thessaloniki (sorting sherds from an excavation in Chalkidiki which John had been part of earlier that year).

The latest section of letters that I have catalogued describe the honeymoon, the work in Thessaloniki and arrangements for their journey to Egypt – John and Hilda’s next stop.

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A map of the route of John and Hilda’s travels for their honeymoon in the Peloponnese, on the back of a letter to Herbert Pendlebury. Copyright: The British School at Athens

Next week I will be continuing to catalogue John’s letters to his father, beginning with his first dig season in Egypt.

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.