Research Article

The Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology (1937–58): history, development and access

  • Katie Meheux (UCL Institute of Archaeology Library, UK)


The Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology (1937–58) is now available as an open-access journal through a UCL digitisation initiative. This article aims to draw attention to the history of the Report and its potential for research into both the history of the Institute of Archaeology and the wider discipline. Research examines the Report within the context of the professionalisation of archaeology in the mid-twentieth century and explores how contemporary journals recorded, reflected and promoted contemporary changes, notably debates surrounding the role of ‘amateurs’ and post-war intellectual internationalism. Vere Gordon Childe’s creative control of the Annual Reports is used to investigate the complex entanglements between institutions and individuals and the roles played by archaeological literature in these interactions.

Keywords: history of archaeology, open-access archaeology, archaeological journals

How to Cite: Meheux, K. (2022). The Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology (1937–58): history, development and access. Archaeology International, 25(1).

Rights: Copyright © 2022, Katie Meheux



Published on
30 Dec 2022
Peer Reviewed


Volumes 1–13 of the Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology (formerly University of London, now UCL) are available online as an open-access journal through the Internet Archive and UCL Digital Collections. 1 This article gives a brief overview of the Report and explores the historical insights that it provides, examining the research value of these 13 volumes as both a print and now a digital resource.

The Annual Reports were produced between 1937 and 1958 and constituted the Institute of Archaeology’s original ‘in-house’ journal. Each volume combined administrative information with research articles by internationally renowned scholars, current students and former students. After 1958 the Reports were replaced by the Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology. The Bulletin continued until 1994 and was replaced in 1997 by Archaeology International, which continues the tradition of displaying the Institute’s activities and research pioneered by the Reports.

Early volumes of the Annual Report form an important research resource for the history of the Institute of Archaeology and for archaeology as a discipline, both within the UK and internationally. Like all archaeological journals, the Report was not only a journal of record, but also a document that reflected and absorbed changes within the wider discipline (Collis 2013). As such, it charts key developments and changes in archaeological practice during the twentieth century. Volumes also allow us to see how the new Institute chose to present itself to the contemporary British academic community and the ways in which it interacted within wider archaeological networks.

Improving access: digitising the Annual Report

The initiative to digitise the Annual Report came from the Institute of Archaeology Library and was funded by UCL Special Collections. Although print copies of the Report can be found in libraries worldwide, providing online access will assist researchers, students and the public and help to raise awareness of the rich and significant history of the Institute of Archaeology.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which caused extended periods of closure and limited access to libraries across the world during 2020 and 2021, highlighted the problems of retaining such a valuable research resource in print-only form. There was also a conservation imperative behind the project: to protect the fragile print copies held by the Institute library. UCL Library Services is engaged in long-term plans to digitise fragile books and archives, and the Annual Reports were a clear candidate for digitisation on both access and conservation grounds (Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1

UCL Library Services’ print volumes of the Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology reveal the wear and tear of frequent use (Source: photograph by Katie Meheux)

The digitised Annual Reports have been made available through the Internet Archive and uploaded to UCL Digital Collections, home to UCL’s digitised materials and research data. Here they join a growing library of other open-access Institute of Archaeology resources, notably the Gordon Childe Skara Brae Notebooks (1928–30), 2 digitised as a joint project with Historic Scotland. Digitisation is in keeping with UCL’s wider goals of making research data and publications freely available online. 3

Open-access initiatives have been embraced by the international archaeological community, and the project should be seen within the wider context of long-term efforts to provide unrestricted access to archaeological research outputs (Richards 2004; Xia 2006). Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, archaeological societies and organisations at both the national and local level in Britain have worked to make historic journal content available, both independently and through the Archaeological Data Service (ADS), an accredited digital repository for heritage data. 4 Digitising historic journals transforms them into sites of innovation, as the data they contain are used in new ways. For example, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust volunteers have been using open-access historical journals to enhance the regional Historic Environment Record (HER) for north-west Wales. 5

History and development of the Annual Report

The tradition of an ‘in-house’ journal for the Institute of Archaeology was launched through the initiative of its founder and first director, Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler, shortly after its official opening in 1937. The new Institute needed to keep its ‘parent body’, the University of London, informed of its progress, and in April 1937 the Management Committee decided that a full report ‘on the year’s work of the Institute’ would be sent to the Senate of the University annually and ‘circulated to those interested’. 6 Strong similarities to the contemporary Report of the Institute of Education, also part of the University of London, may suggest that standard University reporting guidelines underpinned the structure and format. 7

This idea was further developed in response to early financial constraints. At a meeting of the Institute’s Management Committee, Wheeler reported that a number of people who were unable to make large gifts had expressed a desire to help the Institute by the ‘periodical contribution of small sums’. 8 He proposed that a subscribing membership should be established. Members would receive an ‘annual report’ about the work of the Institute, along with ‘supplementary matter’ – either papers from Institute research students or ‘some form of conspectus of general archaeological work or both’. Further discussions added that provision would also be made for ‘subjects that could not be easily published elsewhere’. 9 The latter were to form the basis of the Institute of Archaeology’s Occasional Papers, launched in 1938 (Clay 1938).

The subscribing membership was designed to create and engage a broad-based body of donors interested in the ‘aims and policy’ of the Institute and ‘ready to assist in its development’ in return for certain rights and privileges. In the absence of extensive endowment, such initiatives were the ‘only hope to realise its aims gradually in proportion to the support which it receives from the interested public’ (Anonymous 1938, 70). In return for ‘one guinea or more per annum’, subscribers were entitled to:

  • notice of all lectures, exhibitions, etc., at the Institute

  • the Annual Report and Occasional Papers

  • use of the Institute’s library and photographic collections.

Subscriptions enabled supporters to contribute ‘in proportion to their means’ and help establish the Institute as a ‘metropolitan centre for archaeological students’ (Anonymous 1938, 71).

As a subscription journal made available to a paying membership, the Report was unexceptional; this model had long been standard. From the middle of the nineteenth century, learned societies at both local and national level, for example, the British Archaeological Association, had transformed the study of the past in Britain, promoting popular interest in the subject and forming an influential antiquarian community. Societies and printing clubs voluntarily banded together to form groups of subscribers, thus guaranteeing the circulation of works, journals, inexpensive manuscripts and rare books whose publication might otherwise be risky (Westerall 1998). Wide circulation of literature and free exchange of knowledge became part of their wider mission of supporting scholarship and exerted a powerful influence (Fyfe 2022, 256). Clark (1989, 51–2) commented on the usefulness of research reports and journals thus produced, but added critically that they were ‘short in thought and narrow in perspective’.

The first Annual Report, published in 1938, contained a clear statement of its function:

to contain a résumé of developments and work done during the preceding year, and to contain from time-to-time summaries of lectures of outstanding general interest. For the rest, research-work carried out through the Institute will be published, in so far as other suitable media are not available, in the form of special papers and monographs. (Wheeler 1938, 8)

Its contents reflected these aims, celebrating the launch of the new Institute. A public lecture given by Christopher Hawkes at the Institute entitled ‘Current British Archaeology. A Survey of Aims and Needs’ formed the central research focus of the volume, playing to both professional and public audiences (Hawkes 1938). This mixture of more ‘parochial’ progress reports for the immediate community and original research was characteristic of learned societies. It emphasises that while the Report may have been structured along university lines, it was nonetheless firmly rooted in the archaeological tradition (Figure 2).

Contents page of the Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology 1. This first report set out the ‘template’ for all future volumes and reveals the subjects considered by the Institute to be of interest to its subscribers and public audience (Source: Digital collections. UCL Library Services)

The initiative appears to have been an instant, albeit modest, success. In February 1938 annual subsidies from subscribing members had reached a healthy £117; 10 a year later there were 139 subscribers and one life member, producing a total subscription of £181. 3s. 6d. Financial minutes recorded that an increase in the costs of printing was due ‘to the issue of the Annual Report to subscribing members’, but that these costs were ‘more than offset by the subscriptions’. 11 The importance of the Report in the long-term vision of the Institute is indicated by the inclusion of funds (£65) for printing it in an application for an annual grant to the University in 1938. 12

The launch of a new archaeological journal was significant. The field of archaeological publishing was small and outlets for research limited (Evans 2008, 224). Wheeler’s interest in establishing a journal may have been inspired by the success of another archaeological journal, Antiquity, established by O. G. S. Crawford. Crawford and Wheeler were part of the same circle of ambitious new archaeologists, eager to professionalise and wrest control of the discipline from ‘the dilettante and the brass-rubber’ (Wheeler 1958, 3; Stout 2008, 17–35). Crawford had been a keen advocate for the Institute from the outset, referring to it as ‘the dream of many of us for years’ (Crawford 1932a). He was also keen to improve archaeological literary output, criticising earlier attempts to reach the public through ‘obscure publications’ and ‘best-sellers written by quacks’. For him, the antidote was ‘to create a sound and informed body of opinion and to make it articulate’ (Crawford 1927).

Antiquity was an outstanding success, surpassing 1,270 subscribers during its first year of publication in 1927. It also did much to shape new developments in archaeology (Stout 2008, 22–3; Evans 2008, 224). Innovatively independent of any society or organisation, Antiquity soon became the ‘first voice’ of inter-war prehistoric archaeologists (Díaz-Andreu 2012, 27). From 1935 the group assumed control of the Prehistoric Society and its Proceedings became its ‘second voice’ (Díaz-Andreu 2012, 27; Stout 2008, 38–40). Both Antiquity and the Proceedings generated a new sense of excitement, publishing influential papers and introducing interdisciplinary ideas and techniques from the natural sciences (Smith 1999, 468).

The Annual Report appears to have been set up to emulate Antiquity and the Proceedings, but it was also ahead of its time: the first archaeological journal produced by a university in Britain. Research articles focused on archaeology, exploring new ‘scientific’ techniques and featuring more general interest subjects, for example, an article by Stanley Casson, a pioneer in popularising archaeology (Casson 1938; Thornton 2018, 20). A similar interest in the natural sciences is demonstrated by the Occasional Papers, which included pioneering papers on the use of geological techniques in archaeology (e.g. Zeuner 1940). The idea of a series of ‘occasional’ papers seems to have been an interdisciplinary borrowing from the Royal Anthropological Institute, which had been producing occasional papers addressing eclectic subjects such as Anglo-Saxon skull contours (Parson 1928) and folk stories from Nigeria (Dayrell 1913) since 1902.

An update saw the aims of the journal expanded to include plans for future developments, ‘a statement of work done and in immediate contemplation’ (Anonymous 1939, 62). However, before the third Annual Report could be published, the Second World War broke out and no further reports were issued until 1946. Although British archaeological journals continued to be published during the war (Evans 1989, 437), and efforts were made to continue the publication of the Occasional Papers, 13 the suspension of the Report was not exceptional. Shortages of paper and labour, military action, diminishing shipping capacity and rationing seriously curtailed the activities of British publishers (Hench 2010, 25).

When publication resumed, the Institute had changed. There was a new director, the eminent prehistorian Vere Gordon Childe, as well as new lecturers, a changed Management Committee and a much-improved financial situation as the Institute became the post-war centre for the teaching of archaeology in the University of London (Evans 1987, 15). The Report remained largely unchanged in format, excepting a new Director’s Report or editorial. Each volume continued to combine administrative information with research articles, including the work of students. Many of them were to go on to enjoy distinguished careers, for example, prehistorian Isobel Smith, who worked extensively at Avebury (Pitts 2006). Research papers also included lectures presented at the Institute by scholars of international renown, notably Luigi Bernabò Brea (1950) and Richard Pittioni (1951), highlighting the Institute’s involvement in international archaeological networks.

New ambitions for the Report are indicated by a note in 1954 about its ongoing success and influence:

The papers thus published have been highly appreciated and widely quoted by the foremost workers in all fields of archaeological research and the Annual Report has earned a high reputation in learned societies in this country and abroad.

The usefulness of the Annual Report in international literature exchanges was also emphasised. A total of 88 (70 foreign, 18 British) archaeological publications had been obtained free of charge and ‘in fact by exchange we can and do obtain essential publications that it is virtually impossible to buy, notably from the U.S.S.R’ (Anonymous 1954, 4). These exchanges formed the core of the library’s world-leading periodical collection. They highlight a shift in the focus of the Report from its subscribing readers to a new use as a mechanism for participation in international academic networks, particularly libraries. Journal engagement with the USSR was unusual (Fyfe 2022, 258), and perhaps indicative of the influence of Childe’s personal contacts and ambitions. He later promoted the Report in a reference to their influence on the work of Lothar Kilian on Baltic archaeology (Childe 1956).

After the war, subscriptions and donations to the Institute continued to generate income. In 1946–7 this stood at £287, but was increasingly outstripped by both student fees and grants from the University of London. 14 Independent sales of publications were low; in 1946–7 they generated only £7 income and from 1947 to 1952 produced only around £15 income annually. 15 Despite poor sales and the declining financial importance of subscriptions, there was nonetheless a steady expenditure on printing of around £200 annually throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. 16 This expenditure indicates that the Institute viewed the Report as a mechanism for circulating research and enhancing its reputation, despite rising costs. However, we should put both this expenditure and the Report’s real influence into perspective. In 1956/7 the Royal Anthropological Institute’s annual publications deficit alone was over £2,000 (Fyfe 2022, 277). With such limited financial investment, the Report could never rival world-leading journals.

Revised estimates for 1957 show a jump in expenditure for publications from £200 to £500. One Annual Report had already been published in 1956–7 and the Committee hoped to issue another the same year, to catch up with arrears. 17 However, in 1958 the Report was replaced by the Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology. The reasons for the change are not recorded, but closer oversight by the University of London may have been a major factor. UCL and two other specialist institutions associated with the University, the Institute of Classical Studies and the Institute of Education, also began publishing ‘bulletins’ focusing on their research output, activities and connections during the 1950s. 18 The Institute shared its new premises in Gordon Square with the Institute of Classical Studies ‘within the precinct of the University of London’ (Anonymous 1958, 196–7). However, it is important to note that the mid-1950s saw the beginning of a slow shift away from older models of wide circulation and uneconomic pricing to a new focus on sales and markets. The removal of ‘parochial’ material such as detailed administrative reports was considered to make journals more attractive to overseas and non-member subscribers (Fyfe 2022, 271).

There was some scepticism about the change; Daniel (1958, 65) referred waspishly to ‘what they now propose to call their Bulletin (old-style Annual Report)’. However, the Bulletin was more conventional and competitive, focusing on research articles, book reviews and summaries of research. Although a short administrative ‘annual report’ initially remained a feature of the new Bulletin, it ceased publication entirely in 1970. This change in style and the resulting loss of ‘local’ detail, although more in keeping with other academic journals, is to the detriment of our knowledge of the Institute and the history of late twentieth-century archaeology.

Creating meta-narratives and microhistories

Although some research papers retain their currency as academic resources, notably Vere Gordon Childe’s (1946) inaugural lecture, the true value of the Annual Report is as an historical source. Journals and monographs form their own literary genre (Schlanger 2004, 166) and enable the construction and circulation of knowledge claims (Fyfe 2022, 257). They can also be innovators in the development of archaeological ideas (Collis 2013, 5). Early volumes of the Report, along with Antiquity and the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, offer us insight into the inter-war period when long-established patterns and even subjects of study within British archaeological literature were in flux. These journals served to challenge the established status quo. They introduced new patterns of reference, standards of objectivity and authority, even new terminologies, chronologies and vocabularies. This challenge and experimentation may in part explain the unconventional nature of the early Occasional Papers, notably the proceedings of the Conference on the Future of Archaeology (1943), published as University of London Institute of Archaeology Occasional Paper 5. At that time, academic disagreements were rarely published and the proceedings, which reproduced conference papers, correspondence and transcripts of discussion, were thus an unusual record, offering rare insight into the disputes of contemporary British archaeology (Evans 2008, 224).

Volumes of the Report offer us multiple pathways for engagement with meta-narratives and the creation of archaeological microhistories of past lives, actions and networks (Kaeser 2008, 11). Their hybrid nature offers insights through both the institutional and research record, which makes them an unusually ‘complete’ source; these two aspects are generally pursued through separate, albeit parallel sources: the print and the archive. Schlanger (2002, 129) has stated that publications are mediums for conveying the ‘ambitions and achievements of the archaeological enterprise’; by communicating selected or authorised information, they reflect on ‘the aspirations of archaeology, not the reality’. Journals are ‘intended’ sources or records and sites of ambiguity; the interpretation of the reader may be different from the intention of the writer (Lucas 2010, 346).

Initially, archaeology was ‘something of a Cinderella’ at British universities and teaching was ‘very scattered and restricted’ as a result (Crawford 1932b, 1). The Reports afford superb insight into the development of archaeology in further and higher education. We see details, for example, of subjects taught, fieldwork and laboratory work undertaken, research grants awarded, student names and numbers, even books donated to the library. We also see overall patterns, notably the cosmopolitan nature of the Institute’s post-war student body (Childe 1950a, 59; Stevenson 2020, 150) and ambitions for the future of new generations of archaeology graduates (Grimes 1958a).

However, above all, the Reports are valuable for reconstructing the history of the Institute. Administrative reports from departments (Environmental Archaeology, Library, ‘Technical’ and Photography) outlined projects and activities. The annual Director’s Report recorded teaching activities, exhibitions, excavations, collections, student numbers and lectures from visiting scholars. These minutiae make it possible to create both narratives about the history of the Institute (e.g. Evans 1987) and microhistories – for example, about the Conservation department (Pye 1991), Library (Meheux 2015) and fieldwork practice (Drewett 1987). They also allow us to retrieve neglected or less visible histories, notably the role of museum archaeology in the Institute’s history (Stevenson 2020). However, these microhistories remain uneven in focus, creating ambiguities in the reconstruction of the history of the Institute. The Annual Reports reveal a wealth of histories awaiting study, particularly that of the Environmental Archaeology Department and Frederick Zeuner, its innovative leader (Figure 3).

Contents page of the Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology 3 revealing the new post-war structure of the Report under the Directorship of Vere Gordon Childe. New features included the detailed Departmental Reports and the Director’s Report now so valuable for researching the history of the Institute (Source: Digital Collections, UCL Library Services)

The Reports also provide details for the writing of biographies: lives and early writings (Kaeser 2008, 9). A research paper on ‘Razors, urns and the British Middle Bronze Age’ (Butler and Smith 1956), for example, marks the beginning of the career, as an Institute student, of the eminent European prehistorian Jay Jordan Butler (Steegstra 2018, 157–60; 163–4). They also make visible the less prominent individuals active in the Institute, for example, Rachel Maxwell-Hyslop, an assistant and later lecturer in the Department of Western Asiatic Archaeology (Falkiner 2011). Such individuals are often overshadowed, especially among the ‘many strong and colourful personalities who populated the Institute’ (Allchin and Allchin 2012, 95).

Looking at wider narratives and perspectives

Archaeological journals provide details of wider socio-political and economic frameworks, key to understanding the development of the discipline (Díaz-Andreu et al. 2009, 404). Thornton (2018, 1) has commented on the ‘cultivated personal visibility’ of early-twentieth-century archaeologists and their commitment to ‘public’ archaeology. This commitment finds strong representation in Wheeler’s conception of the subscribing membership, which emphasises both his talent for publicity and his connections with amateur groups, notably the Royal Archaeological Institute (Stout 2008, 41).

In post-war years this relationship began to change. Special lectures and programmes, use of the library, the Annual Report and the borrowing of lantern slides were still offered to subscribers, but support for professional archaeologists was now overtly emphasised (Childe 1950a, 60):

To enable working archaeologists who are neither graduates nor students of the University of London to participate in the work of the Institute and share its advantages, provision is made for individual membership at an annual subscription of at least £1.1s.

Childe (1953, 1) later claimed that ‘the University of London could and should contribute to the development of the subject by assistance rendered to such amateurs through the services of the Institute of Archaeology’. However, Grimes (1958a, 40) subsequently criticised part-time study on the post-graduate diploma as ‘seriously limiting both the range and depth of the teaching’. As the Institute became more embedded in the University of London, its public functions began to fade.

This change in emphasis reflected not only the Institute’s new freedom from reliance on public funds, but also fierce contemporary debates surrounding the role of ‘amateurs’ within archaeology and, in consequence, archaeological literature. During the late nineteenth century, all archaeologists and antiquarians were technically amateurs – albeit active intellectual labourers who worked, largely within learned societies, to establish forums for ideas, decide subjects for study and control publications, excavation, grants and fieldwork (Chapman 1989; Westerall 1998). During the inter-war period a new generation of British archaeologists began to make a conscious effort to establish a new, distinct identity – one that rested largely on the institutionalisation of archaeology as an academic discipline. For them archaeology was no longer a ‘hobby’ but a branch of science and a skilled profession (Roberts 2012, 211–13; Stout 2008).

After the war, this group was filled with optimism for change. They visualised ‘a multiplication of University posts, a considerable extension of State archaeological services at home and abroad, and a large scale development of museums’ (Grimes 1958a, 37–8). In this new professional discipline there was little space for the traditional. Piggott (1948, 1) did much to publicise these new attitudes, writing provocatively that ‘the days when the Bronze Age of Blankshire could be discussed chattily and cosily by the dear Vicar are gone, never to return’. He acknowledged that ‘we professionals are very much in the debt of those amateurs who subscribe to publish our papers’, but maintained that amateurs would now struggle to understand the advances made in the discipline (Piggott 1948, 2).

Piggott met with furious rebuttals from the wider ‘amateur’ archaeology community, who became particularly defensive of traditional subscription memberships and the access to archaeology that journals provided. Wood (1948) commented that amateurs were to be reduced to the status of ‘payers of subscriptions and readers of learned papers, which by definition we shall be increasingly powerless to understand’. His fears were justified; the influence of subscribing readers was fading. Most professional researchers now had access to institutional libraries and had no need of personal memberships for access to literature, creating major changes in the production of academic journals (Fyfe 2022). In 1945 the Council for British Archaeology was established to give national voice to British archaeology, provide support and training to local societies and raise the standards of publication and fieldwork (Collis 2013, 18). Many national and local societies created new fusions of amateur traditions and new professional ambitions, showcased in their journals.

Debates about production and access to materials should also be seen within the context of changes in the production of academic journals, which saw commercial options increasingly offered alongside more traditional subscription models. Furthermore, authorship in journals had long been a key element in the ‘prestige economy’ of scholarship (Fyfe 2022, 257). Control of journals – their contents, chronologies, even terminologies – by the new generation did much to transform ‘amateur’ archaeologists from the dominant producers of archaeology to its passive consumers, just as Piggott’s opponents had feared. The Report reflects this; there was limited space for non-university voices in the post-war years.

Academic internationalism increasingly took the place of community engagement. The Institute’s growing international importance after the Second World War is reflected not only in the pages of the Annual Reports, but also in attempts to promote the journal’s international reputation (Anonymous 1954, 4). The history of institutions, rather than ‘pioneers’ or ‘forerunners’, has been seen as key to our understanding of the links connecting disciplinary history, epistemology and society (Kaeser 2002, 41–3; Murray 2002, 237). However, it is often difficult to separate prominent individuals from nascent institutions, making it thus vital to investigate interchanges of information between the two (Eberhardt 2008, 92). The personal influence of Childe, Wheeler and Zeuner in ‘growing’ the international reputation of the Institute post-war is clearly visible. Wheeler’s links with India and Pakistan encouraged students from these countries to attend the Institute (Stevenson 2020, 151–4). Zeuner, a refugee from Nazi Germany (Evans 1987, 12), was proactive in rebuilding relations with the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1950s, taking his students on fieldwork in Germany and Switzerland (Anonymous 1950, 1951; Figure 4).

Figure 4
Figure 4

The Director’s Report from 1952–3, Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology 10, provides details of the international connections of the post-war Institute (Source: Digital Collections. UCL Library Services)

However, it was Childe who exerted the strongest influence. Bridget Allchin recalled that ‘his name drew substantial scholars to the Institute’ and that it was he who ‘set the tone’ (Allchin and Allchin 2012, 95–7). The post-war internationalism of the Institute reflects his prestige within global archaeological communities on both sides of the ‘Iron Curtain’. Such an influence is clearly visible within the Reports, not only in the form of published papers, for example, by Tolstov (1958), but also in the record of visitors, notably Gerhard Bersu (Childe 1955, 1), Carl Blegen (Childe 1954, 1), Johannes Brøndsted (Childe 1950b, 1–2) and Miograg Grbic of the Serbian Academy of Sciences, Belgrade, who lectured at the Institute as part of a Yugoslav Interchange Scheme and had an interest in museum archaeology (Grimes 1958b, 4; Bandović 2016).

Questions of creative control

Childe’s influential internationalism and control of the Institute may have extended to creative control of the Annual Reports. The Director’s Report, an editorial overview of the annual achievements and ‘highlights’ of the Institute, was his innovation; he controlled the contemporaneous representation and therefore the historical record of the Institute of Archaeology. He may also have controlled the research content. In a letter written by Childe to Jay Jordon Butler, dated 26 October 1953, he mentions the latest volume of the Annual Report. This volume was dedicated to British prehistory and contained papers by Childe’s students in European prehistory, one of his own revised papers and one by British archaeologist Samuel Hazzeldine Warren (1954; Steegstra 2018, 100). This close configuration of papers may suggest that, on this occasion at least, Childe exercised editorial control.

Hints of Childe’s ‘hidden’ control of the Reports suggests that we can learn much about the work and influence of individual archaeologists and their contemporary intellectual frameworks by examining journal contents and editorials. Editorial or creative control of journals is an accepted aspect of archaeological practice that impacts upon the networks, research and data selected for publication and circulation, and therefore ultimately for influence within the archaeological community. By tracing editors, we can see how individuals – and indeed, as the Annual Report, Antiquity and Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society reveal, new epistemological communities – gain and exercise authority within the discipline of archaeology.

Conclusion and future plans

Digitisation of the Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology as an open-access journal makes its content freely available and raises its research potential, opening it up to new audiences. The move to open access is in keeping with the aims of UCL, as well as, more importantly, those of the wider archaeological community; it can thus be seen within the long tradition of public accessibility to archaeological information (Thornton 2018, 1). Such a move offers possibilities for new creative and innovative use of older materials. Further digitisation of the Institute’s historic publishing output is planned as funding becomes available.

The Reports are a rich and diverse historical source that provide multiple avenues for research. They offer new insights into the history of archaeology, archaeological literature and, most specifically, the Institute of Archaeology. As archaeological literature, they create questions about the influence of archaeological journals, both past and present, within archaeological communities. Examination of the journals dominated by inter-war archaeologists reveals the hidden agendas behind them, and their roles in the creation and perpetuation of knowledge and archaeological trends, schools and themes.

Declarations and conflicts of interest

Research ethics statement

Not applicable to this article.

Consent for publication statement

Not applicable to this article.

Conflicts of interest statement

The author declares no conflict of interest with this work. All efforts to sufficiently anonymise the author during peer review of this article have been made. The author declares no further conflicts with this article.


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  2. UCL Digital Collections. The Gordon Childe Skara Brae Notebooks. Accessed 21 June 2022.
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  4. For example, early volumes of the Archaeological Journal, which are available as open access through the ADS.
  5. Archaeological Data Service. ‘Accessioning Arch Camb’: Gwynedd Archaeological Trust Volunteer Engagement Project. Accessed 21 June 2022.
  6. Institute of Archaeology Management Committee Minutes, 28 April 1937.
  7. Annual Report. University of London. Institute of Education, 1934.
  8. Institute of Archaeology Management Committee Minutes, 25 June 1937.
  9. Institute of Archaeology Management Committee Minutes, 11 November 1937.
  10. Institute of Archaeology Management Committee Minutes, 22 February 1938.
  11. Institute of Archaeology Management Committee Minutes, 28 April 1938.
  12. Application for an annual grant. Institute of Archaeology Senate House Files I. Financial correspondence. UCL Special Collections.
  13. Institute of Archaeology Management Committee Minutes, 20 January 1940.
  14. Notes on Expenditure 1947–1952. Institute of Archaeology Senate House Files I. Financial correspondence. UCL Special Collections.
  15. Notes on Expenditure 1947–1952.
  16. Notes on Expenditure 1947–1952.
  17. Institute of Archaeology Management Committee Minutes, 8 April 1957.
  18. UCL issued its first Bulletin in 1951, the Institute of Classical Studies in 1954 and the Institute of Education in 1952.


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