Our First Trip

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator, Beyond Notability)

On 6 October, the Beyond Notability team took its first steps into the Society of Antiquaries archive. This will be a key research area for us, as the Society’s archive is one of our main record sets in starting to map women’s work in archaeology, history and heritage between the late 19th and the mid-twentieth centuries.  

The Society has been in existence since 1707 (more on its history here).  Its recently appointed archivist, Kat Petersen, was our guide to getting to know the SAL’s archive a bit better. She is currently going through the entire archive herself, to ensure that ultimately the Society’s rich institutional history will be discoverable through the Collections website

Our goal with this initial visit was to look at a cross section of the Society’s archive to get a better sense of the kinds of ways in which women’s work was recorded.  The Society’s Blue papers (records generated when a person is proposed as a Fellow of the Society) are an obvious starting point. However, women were not admitted as Fellows until 1920, so references to their work before that point can only be found by looking beyond that particular set of records.  

The Society’s various Minute Books are another key resource.  There are series of Minute Books for various groups within the Society, including the Executive Committee, the Council and the Finance and Library Committee. Women can be found in the Executive Committee and Council minutes before 1920 if they are sending artefacts for exhibition at the Society, reporting on discoveries made, or offering books or artefacts to the Society (Fig. 1). Another activity we’ll be tracking and highlighting is instances of women seeking to use the resources of the Society for their own purposes (Fig. 2). 

Fig. 1. Detail from the Society’s Executive Committee Minutes from 3 July 1913, showing that a “Miss Cobbe” offered the Society a group of manuscripts relating to Bedfordshire. © The Society of Antiquaries of London. 
Fig. 2. Detail from the Society’s Executive Committee Minutes from 18 June 1914, showing that a “Miss Portal” applied to copy extracts from a manuscript held by the Society. © The Society of Antiquaries of London. 

A further valuable record set is the Special Committee Minute Books. We looked through one volume of these, dating from the years immediately after the Second World War. We found the names of FSAs Marjerie Venables Taylor and Kathleen Kenyon among the members of some of the Committees. On the Society’s Apulia Committee, gathered to organise excavations in this region of southern Italy, we spotted the name of another woman, “Mrs J. S. P. Bradford”. “Mrs Bradford” accompanied her husband John Spencer Purvis Bradford, FSA, on a scoping mission to Italy prior to a formal application being made to excavate.  

Thanks to Francesca Radcliffe’s biography of John Bradford, a bit more information about Patience (Andrewes) Bradford is available. Prior to her marriage, she attended the Courtauld Institute, and was part of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) during the Second World War. Radcliffe’s research reveals that during her lifetime Patience Andrewes Bradford was considered to be an expert in medieval archaeology and art – and that in the 1960s, she took over the management of the Apulia Committee.   

Through our project, we will be bringing together archival records at the Society of Antiquaries with information from other associated archives and sources, ensuring that we can view each of these women as individuals within the context of their time, and as a network linked across time. The first step in our programme is to understand how the Society’s institutional archive is constructed and what parts of the Society’s activities over time it represents, all the while taking note of the ways in which women appear in the records. 

We can’t wait for our next trip! 

2 thoughts on “Our First Trip

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.