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History of Archaeology

The history of archaeology is a growing area of research not least because of the increased importance of digitising collections and making them publicly accessible. There are a series of current developments in this field, but the UCL Institute of Archaeology is particularly well placed to develop research because of the depth and breadth of its archival holdings and collections.

The Institute is one of the earliest archaeology training institutions in Britain, and a key player in the development of archaeology as a profession. Its past has fixed its current position as the largest and one of most well-known archaeology departments in the world. The Institute's focus on archaeology, museum studies and cultural heritage will add multiple perspectives to research in the history of archaeology, and facilitate contacts with many different cultural institutions, including museums, university archives and learned societies.

The IoA History of Archaeology Research Network brings together a critical evaluation, examination and presentation of archival material and object collections, and comprises a strong inter-disciplinary element; including strong links to the history of science, art and museum collections, social and cultural history, architecture and tourism. It also provides a valuable route for public access to archaeology, enhancing the quality of archaeology’s impact on the public.

Follow the IoA History of Archaeology Research Network on Twitter

Its long-term aims are to:

  • Encourage research in the history of archaeology at the Institute as part of a developing discipline
  • Improve knowledge of and research into the Institute of Archaeology’s archival collections, and research into archaeologists’ collections and collecting activities that are encompassed in the Institute’s and the Petrie’s collections
  • Increase public access to collections via digitisation of the Institute's archives in collaboration with UCL Special Collections and UCL Museums and Collections
  • Encourage further public engagement with the history of archaeology through exhibitions and public lectures, encouraging participation from diverse communities

The potential for the history of archaeology to contribute to public awareness of and appreciation for archaeology is enormous. The Institute's collections are partially the result of generations of archaeologists leaving personal and fieldwork related material to the Institute specifically because of its place at the forefront of archaeological research.

In order to capitalise on this, and highlight the breadth and depth of the Institute's history, its collections and archives are the foundation of this new research network. Its goal is to develop a publicly accessible database of its collections, both material and documentary, showcasing the Institute's facilities, research, staff and students while revealing archaeology's role within a wider social, economic and political historical context.

Network events

  • 15 May 2018: Vicky Donnellan (British Museum) - Histories, contexts and meanings: classical archaeology in UK regional museums
  • 24 April 2018: Neil Wilkin (British Museum) - From skull measurements to ancient DNA: John Thurnam’s collection of antiquities in their prehistoric and archaeological context
  • 13 March 2018: Nancy Charley and Ed Weech (Royal Asiatic Society) - In the footsteps of maverick Orientalists: Exploring the Royal Asiatic Society archive
  • 22 February 2018: Francesca Hillier (The British Museum) - Introduction to the British Museum Central Archive
  • 22 November 2017: Amara Thornton and Caitlin O'Grady (UCL Institute of Archaeology) - Screening Verulamium: Institute of Archaeology Films from the 1950s
  • 9 November 2017: James E. Snead (California State University, Northcliffe) - The Kentucky Mummy: Encountering Antiquity in 19th Century America
  • 6 June 2017: Colin Penman & Robert Winckworth (UCL) - Discovering archaeology sources at UCL
  • 16 May 2017: Juliette Desplat (The National Archive) - The Arab Bureau: Archaeologists and Spies in the Middle East during the First World War
  • 26 April 2017: Katie Meheux (UCL) -  'A young man’s radicalism’: V. Gordon Childe, socialist and war-resister, 1914-1925
  • 14 March 2017: Tina Paphitis (UCL) - Sagas & Socialism: William Morris in Iceland
  • 8 March 2017: Katy Soar (Royal Holloway) - Postcards as Archives: 'Excavating' Popular Archaeology at the Turn of the Century
  • 31 January 2017: Jamie Larkin (Birkbeck) - Exploring Memories: Museum Postcards 1900-1930
  • 16 November 2016: Heba Abd El Gawad (Durham University) - Musketeers, Curvy ladies, and Victorian crowd-funders: Beyond Beauty exhibition and the complexities of the past and present of ancient Egypt
  • 9 June 2016: Juliette Desplat (The National Archives) - History of Archaeology at the National Archives
  • 20 May 2016: Chris Naunton (Egypt Exploration Society) - Egyptology in the Digital Age
  • 26 April 2016: Alice Stevenson & Emma Libonati (UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology) - Artefacts of Excavation
  • 9 February 2016: George Oates (Good Form & Spectacle) - Two Way Street Exploration Session
  • 2 December 2015: Katie Meheux (UCL) - '"Top Secret": spying on Childe: Gordon Childe’s Security Service files 1917-1955'
  • 19 November 2015: Rachel Mairs (University of Reading) - 'Archaeologists and Language: Communication and Miscommunication on Nineteenth-Century Digs in the Middle East'
  • 27 May 2015: David Gill (University Campus Suffolk) - 'Winifred Lamb at War: Room 40 and the BBC'
  • 29 April 2015: Jennifer Wexler (British Museum) - 'Following in the Footsteps of Hawkes: Forgotten Archives in the British Museum'
  • 18 March 2015: Alice Leone (Scuola Normale Superiore) - 'When Something Beautiful Comes Out Of A War'
  • 5 February 2015: Keith Emerick (York University) - 'Imperial Practice Post-Colonial Mind Set: British conservation practice in Cyprus, 1880-1939, and the legacy of Empires'.
  • 11 June 2014: Rodney Harrison (UCL) - 'From the collection of 'curious survivals' to the government of the masses: Museums, anthropology and the shaping of culture as an apparatus of government in Britain, 1900-1945'
  • 4 June 2014: Apps and the Humanities workshop.
  • 7 May 2014: Lee Young (Griffith Institute, University of Oxford) - 'Annie Pirie Quibell and Rosalind Paget: Two intrepid Victorian women who went out to Egypt at the turn of the 20th century with Flinders Petrie'
  • 30 April 2014: Vassilios Varouhakis (University of Southampton) - 'Ignorant peasants, patriot antiquarians and national benefactors from the West: Crypto-colonial and national archaeologies as identity politics in the Cretan state'
  • 25 March 2014: Chris Naunton & John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society) - Pendlebury at Amarna: Film Screening and Discussion
  • 12 February 2014: Sarah Longair (The British Museum) - 'Tackling "the problems of an isolated, overseas museum'': professional networks and curatorial challenges in the Zanzibar Museum, 1935-1942'
  • 22 January 2014: James Doeser (UCL Institute of Archaeology) - 'Paradox and Antiquity: the history of archaeology and government'
  • 13 November 2013: Elisabeth O'Connell (Curator, Department of Egypt & Sudan, The British Museum) - 'An Assyriologist in Egypt: R. Campbell Thompson at Wadi Sarga'
  • 8 May 2013: Gaigysyz Jorayev (UCL Institute of Archaeology) - 'History of one Myth: 100 Years of archaeological excavations at Anau, Turkmenistan'
  • 1 May 2013: Paolo Del Vesco (UCL Institute of Archaeology) - 'A Year with Flinders Petrie: Petrie’s Pocket Diaries in the Petrie Museum archives'
  • 6 March 2013: Jennfier Baird (Birkbeck) - 'Exposing Archaeology: Time, Beauty, and the Role of Photographs in Archaeological Knowledge'
  • 6 February 2013: Axel Körner (UCL History) - 'Etruscomania and local identity in post-Unification Italy'
  • 23 January 2013: Simon Mills (CRASSH, University of Cambridge) - 'An Early History of Near Eastern Antiquarianism 1620-1760'
  • 19 November 2012: Manuel Fernandez-Gotz (Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Baden-Württemberg) - 'From 'Pots = People' to 'Ethnicity Without Groups': Ethnic Identities in Archaeological Interpretation'
  • 15 October 2012: Thomas Kiely (Curator, Cyprus Collection, The British Museum) - 'Poachers Turned Gamekeepers?  The British Museum Archaeological Agents on Cyprus, 1893-1899'
  • 21 May 2012: Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck) -  'The Mummy's Curse: The True Story of an Edwardian Rumour' (jointly organised with the UCL Petrie Museum).

Related outputs

  • Tourism as Colonial Policy Special Issue, Public Archaeology 11.4 (2013)
  • Financing Archaeology Papers in Present Pasts 5.1 (2013)Sparks, R.T. (2013). Publicising Petrie: Financing Fieldwork in British Mandate Palestine 1926-1938Thornton, A. 2013. "... a certain faculty for extricating cash": Collective Sponsorship in late 19th and early 20th century British archaeology
  • Financing Archaeology Workshop (May 2012)
  • Tourism as Colonial Policy Workshop (Nov 2011)
  • Quirke, S. 2010. Hidden Hands: Egyptian Workforces in Petrie’s Excavation Archives, 1880-1924. London: Duckworth.
  • Challis, D. 2008. From the Harpy Tomb to the Wonders of Ephesus: British Archaeologists in the Ottoman Empire 1840-1880. London: Duckworth.
  • Challis, D. 2008. Charles Newton: The Keeper, The British Museum and the Ottoman Empire, in D. Shankland (ed.). Anthropology, Archaeology and Heritage in the Balkans and Anatolia (Conference Proceedings). Istanbul: Isis Press.

Funding

UCL Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects (CHIRP): Award of a Small Research Grant 2013-14  for a project entitled Filming Antiquity.
The project will involve the digitisation of excavation films currently held in the UCL Institute of Archaeology, an interdisciplinary symposium with screenings of a sample of the digitised films and discussion and the construction of an online archive of these films and supporting materials.

Selected network events have received funding from: