Week 5, 2nd-6th November 2015

This week I have mostly been cataloguing the correspondence section of the John Pendlebury Family Papers. I have completed the draft catalogue of a section of letters sent to John Pendlebury (including many thanking him for a copy of his book, ‘The Archaeology of Crete’), and have begun cataloguing a section of letters sent to Hilda Pendlebury.

Original file of letters to Hilda
Original file of letters sent to Hilda Pendlebury in The John Pendlebury Family Papers

I am initially cataloguing using Microsoft Word. This is because although I now have access to the cataloguing system that will be used for the project (KE EMu), we have not had a chance to perfect the set-up for archives cataloguing. The John Pendlebury Family Papers will be the first archives collection at the British School to be directly catalogued into the program.

KE EMu has already been used at the British School to catalogue museum collections and part of the archaeological sherds collection. It has also been used to enter legacy data from the archives, including the catalogue of the Byzantine Research Fund collection. KE EMu is the basis of ‘Museums and Archives Online: digital repositories of the BSA Collection’ (http://mao.bsa.ac.uk/), and the plan is to present the digitised John Pendlebury Family Papers using this platform.

Beginning the cataloguing in Word rather than KE EMu may be advantageous because it has made me think about the data fields needed, rather than being restrained by what the program initially offers.

Before starting cataloguing I drafted a template of the basic data elements that would be needed for most descriptions. To do this I looked at ISAD(G) and some past catalogues that I have produced. I added a ‘previous reference’ field (even though that does not appear in ISAD(G)) because in my experience this can be very helpful. The John Pendlebury Family Papers have accession numbers stamped onto them, as well as up to 2 more previous references. If someone wants to follow up a reference from their past use of the Pendlebury papers or from someone else’s past use, these previous references will be invaluable.

Here is the basic template for individual catalogue entries:


Reference Code:

Previous reference:

Level of description:

Covering dates:

Extent and medium:

Content and context:

The highlight of this week’s cataloguing has been John’s letters to Hilda. Typed copies of two letters sent from Crete in 1935 paint amusing (if sometimes a little harsh) pictures of his companions.

“The Squire got back looking like nothing on earth! He wore a white (?) suit which he was too modest to take off when sharing a terrace with Mercy. It was also not improved by a vertical tail spin he went into near Erganos which tore the trousers and revealed the good long winter woollies below. His hat was the floppy canvas white one you have at your prep school and the vision I have of him with his trousers rolled up to his knees and his boots around his neck walking up the main street of Arvi from where he had been paddling I will never forget. With all this he insisted on shaving (most inadequately) every morning. But on the other hand he was always up and about early“.

Love from Jehan 1928
A letter sent to Hilda during John’s train journey to Chalkidiki in 1928, signed “Jehan”. This is a reference to Jehane St Pol, a character in John’s favourite book ‘The Life and Death of Richard Yea-and Nay’ by Hewlett (1900). Copyright: The British School at Athens

Next week I will continue cataloguing the section of letters sent to Hilda Pendlebury.


The first month of the project

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My work space for the next few months – the Map Room in the British School at Athens Library

The first month of work on the Pendlebury Archive Project can be summed up as reading, looking, checking, drafting and discussing.

I began by reading through the previous catalogue of the Pendlebury Family Papers, a file about the collection, biographical information about John, and – just for fun – ISAD(G). For non-archive people, ISAD(G) is the General International Standard for Archival Description and outlines data elements to be included in archival descriptions so that they can be shared across different platforms. Though I already knew the principles of ISAD(G) which underlie all archival description software, it’s always helpful to have a refresher.

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Notes made on the existing structure of the Pendlebury Family Papers

After absorbing this information I looked over the previous catalogue with a critical eye. I assessed whether this structure made sense, or whether the collection should be reorganised. I settled on a combination. For example, the correspondence section will be restructured. Previously it was divided into “John”, “Hilda”, “John’s parents” etc. These sections had a mixture of items sent and received by John, Hilda or John’s parents. I think it makes more sense to divide the letters into who had received them, as this will reflect their provenance more clearly.

Whilst working on a proposed structure for the collection I checked files and volumes in the archive. I needed to look at items first-hand rather than relying on previous descriptions. The previous catalogue was also necessarily vague in areas (as there had been only 2 weeks to complete it) so I needed to check folders with titles such as “miscellaneous letters”.

A box of negative albums in the Pendlebury Family Papers
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Checking negative index books against albums of negatives


There was also material in other related collections to check, and some of this will be added into the John Pendlebury Family Papers. This includes items such as notebooks from the British School’s Excavation Records which are in John’s handwriting. There are also other records of excavations within the John Pendlebury Family Papers which are impossible to extract, so it is best to keep these all together.

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Comparing Hilda Pendlebury’s unpublished and published accounts of travelling in Crete with John

I drafted a structure for the catalogue then discussed this with Amalia Kakissis (the Archivist here at the British School). After some more drafting, discussing and redrafting I finally have a plan to work to.

Next… I will be looking at the cataloguing software and beginning to catalogue the correspondence section.