Jeremy Worth
Tel: +44 (0)1865 278263
Development Office:
Elisabeth Wadge
Tel: +44 (0)1865 611599

Giving - The Archives

Since the late nineteenth century, Oxford has been at the forefront of archaeological thought and of the development of archaeology as a discipline. The Institute of Archaeology, founded in 1961, quickly became a repository for the archives of many leading archaeologists. Ironically, archaeological effort is now needed to recover the precious knowledge contained in these archives, many of which are now badly in need of conservation. It is essential to the mission of the Institute to preserve these records and make them as widely available as possible to scholars and the public.

The Institute is therefore launching a project to conserve and digitise its archives. This effort includes original letters, artwork, photographs, diaries, excavation reports, personal research notes, maps, and books covering expeditions and travels throughout Europe, the Middle East, India and Asia. These materials serve a dual role as both a modern and ancient historical record. Unpublished correspondence and research notes play a vital part in understanding how archaeological thought changed and developed in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Furthermore, some of the sites documented may have been destroyed or are inaccessible due to regional turbulence. These archives are thus the best (and sometimes only) record of important discoveries.

The need to conserve and digitize these fragile materials is urgent.

The Challenge

  • The archive is deteriorating: without intervention, valuable and unique images of archaeology, people and landscapes from across Europe and Asia will be lost.
  • Parts of the archive remain uncatalogued, unpublished, and stored in sub-standard conditions.  The potential for exciting discoveries in this cache of material – which includes the papers of such pioneering figures as Stuart Piggot -- is tremendous, and remains unexplored.
  • For the modern historian, the archives provide a lens through which to view the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  From startling images of excavations in exotic locations to the impact of two world wars, the archives offer an unusual window through which to understand the remarkable social, cultural, and academic development that took place over the past 200 years.
  • For the archaeologist, the archives may hold evidence that could help answer crucial questions about the ancient world.  There remain so many ellipses in currently available records, that even small threads of information can have a significant impact on scholarship and interpretation.  The archives hold the potential for many such illuminating discoveries.
In the last year, we have had requests for information or research material from the archives from researchers in Germany, France, Greece, America, Romania and India – the archives are of worldwide interest.  Digitising the archives would allow interested parties around the world to employ the materials for their own research, teaching, or personal interests.

A Vision for the Future

Thanks to the generosity of individuals and foundations, the Institute Archive has made progress in recent years. Much of the Sonia Hawkes Archive is now on-line in the ‘Novum Inventorium Sepulchrale: Grave and Grave Goods from Early Anglo-Saxon Kent’ and an exciting new project on Paul Jacobsthal’s refugee archive is under way.

A huge amount remains to be done, our immediate priorities are: 

  1. Transforming the archive: to ensure the security, safety and long-term preservation of our collections by properly conserving and storing them to allow for scholarly and public access to them.
  2. Increasing the funds available to curate the archive, enabling improved access through comprehensive, online cataloguing and digitisation, and the conservation of all images and documents, to enable their continued use in the years ahead.
  3. Sharing the archive: to develop the archives as a research tool and as a resource for graduate and undergraduate programmes, and to bring this fascinating resource into the public domain.

Raising funds for the archives will allow the Institute to use them as an inspiring source of research and teaching material, to develop courses on the history of archaeology, and to ensure that important research materials are collected and made available in perpetuity.

School of Archaeology > The Archives