Research Article

The Institute of Archaeology Library 1937–1986: Collections, Communities and Networks

  • Katie Meheux orcid logo (UCL Institute of Archaeology Library, London WC1H 0PY, United Kingdom)


This article documents the history of the Institute of Archaeology Library from its independent beginnings in 1937 until the merger of the Institute with UCL in 1986. Documents from the Institute of Archaeology Library Archive, unpublished Institute Management Committee Minutes and published Annual Reports are used to demonstrate how the Library and the activities of its librarians reflected changes and developments not only in the Institute community, but also within wider archaeological networks. Initially situated in a united archaeological community with fluid boundaries, the Library was to develop its own independent identity as changes in Higher Education, professionalisation and commercialisation destroyed this unity and promoted the development of distinct communities of professional practice.

How to Cite: Meheux, K. (2015). The Institute of Archaeology Library 1937–1986: Collections, Communities and Networks. Archaeology International, 18(1).

Rights: Copyright: © 2015 The Author(s)




Published on
23 Nov 2015
Peer Reviewed


Books and libraries are the written reflections of the societies that produce them, and contain their cultures, histories and collective memories (Jimerson 2003: 92; van der Hoeven 1996: 1). This finds clear expression in the relationship between the Institute of Archaeology and its Library and the intimate inter-twining of their histories between 1937 and 1986 (Evans 1987; Annual Report 1987: 1). The Library supported the Institute’s teaching and research activities, its financial fortunes rising and falling alongside the Institute’s, its collections (books, journals and pamphlets) and classificatory systems reflecting the interests, networks and influences, both academic and non-academic, of the Institute’s staff.

From meagre and faltering beginnings, by 1985/6, the Institute of Archaeology Library had become one of the foremost libraries for Archaeology in Britain, largely due to the activities of its three post-war librarians: Joan Du Plat Taylor (1906–1983); Geraldine (Gerry) Talbot (1908–2000) and Heather Bell (1920–). Reflections from former students (e.g. Thomas 2012; Thomas 2013: 141) and recorded library donations emphasise both the central role of the library in the life of the Institute and its independent connections, which provided access to professional practice in librarianship and a steady flow of books and other materials. Research on the networks that bound archaeologists together has emphasised the activities of academics (Diaz-Andreu 2007; 2008; 2012), but Library records also offer a rare glimpse of the ‘hidden’ agents who sustained these networks alongside: booksellers, publishers, librarians, curators, administrators and even students. Bergman (2008: 132) has emphasised the difficulties of locating less prominent contributors to the history of archaeology, as so few leave documentary traces. But here these ‘invisible’ people spring to vivid life; exchanging, buying, and stealing books, grumbling, squabbling and sharing news, immediate and accessible in their emotions and actions.

The history and contribution of antiquarian/archaeology libraries to the development of archaeology remains largely unexamined, with the exception of the Edwards Egyptology Library, UCL (Janssen 1992) and the Society of Antiquaries Library (Evans 1956). Research for this paper indicates, however, that the origins of archaeological libraries are diverse and reflect a complex inter-play of the professional and the amateur, the local, national and personal. The oldest antiquarian library in Britain is the Society of Antiquaries Library, founded in 1707 (Evans 1956: 49). Some personal antiquarian libraries were older, with roots in the 16th century (Evans 1956: 7, 35; Pearson 2006). Many personal libraries were later bequeathed to institutions, for example, that of Sir Alan Gardiner, donated in 1963 to the Edwards Library (Janssen 1992: 30) and have greatly enhanced institutions, as have donations, largely publications of personal research, for example R.B. Sergeant’s book on ‘Pre-Mongolian Islamic Textiles’, donated to the Library in 1943 (Kenyon to Sergeant: 11/01/1943, Institute of Archaeology (IoA) Library Archive, Box 2). Bequests and donations demonstrate the fluid interaction of the personal and professional/academic in archaeology and the important role of libraries in circulating archaeological research and rendering it accessible to a wide audience.

Most archaeological libraries, both national and local, date to the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Royal Archaeological Institute (Royal Archaeological Institute 1890), the Hellenic Society Library (Institute of Classical Studies Library 2013), the Haddon Library, University of Cambridge (Bloomfield 1997: 33) and the Antiquarian Society of Newcastle upon Tyne (Evans 1956: 216). Some university collections were once departmental libraries founded to support a museum and academic chair, notably the Edwards Library, the Yates Library of Classical Archaeology, UCL, and the Liverpool Institute of Archaeology Library (Janssen 1992; Bloomfield, 1997: 396; Garstang Museum of Archaeology Liverpool 2015). There was strong connectivity between libraries at all levels, both at home and abroad (Evans 1956: 226) and book/periodical exchanges were vital for library growth; the Glasgow Archaeological Society judged its library of 1700 books and pamphlets incomplete, but valuable because of the publications of kindred societies, obtained through exchange (Glasgow Archaeological Society 1919: iii). Few libraries had professional librarians, but a surge in published archaeological library catalogues in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, when accessible catalogues were considered the ‘touchstone’ of librarianship (Hewitt 2006: 72), suggests that librarians were neither uninformed nor unprofessional.


Sources used for this study consist of library reports included in the Annual Report of the Institute of Archaeology, published annually throughout the Institute’s independent history (1938–1987); unpublished Institute of Archaeology Management Committee Meeting Minutes (1934 to 1987) and the Institute of Archaeology Library Archive. Supporting evidence is provided from published reminiscences of Institute staff and students (e.g. Talbot 1987; Thomas 2013; Simpson 2001). These sources provide a robust balance of published and unpublished records and a wealth of diverse contemporary data allowing for effective research, both detailed and broad–based.

Published library reports provide a chronological framework for the Institute Library’s history, something often missing from archives studies (Lucas 2010: 352). They allow us to see the library at work year on year, detailing activities, equipment, staffing, purchasing, exchanges and donations. Schlanger (2002: 129) has criticised the use of publications for writing histories of archaeology on the grounds that they convey selected/authorised versions of events. But authorised versions are not without value; they allow us to see how actors consciously presented their lives and activities and how they controlled access to them. Library reports show how the librarians chose to formally record and represent the life of the Library and what they felt was worthy of public note, both negative and positive.

Unpublished Management Committee Meeting Minutes, held in the UCL Institute of Archaeology, are particularly useful for early years, as they provide evidence about the planning of the Library not found elsewhere. They also allow us to see how the Library and Librarians fitted into wider organisational contexts and the value ascribed to them by the Institute’s Management Committee, Academic Board and Directors. We learn useful details about expenditure and can chart struggles to secure sufficient funding and staffing, allowing us to place the Library within contexts of sustained under–financing and ambiguities about the status of librarians that are recorded widely within contemporary academic libraries (Roberts 1977: 463).

The most detailed and extensive source materials come from the Institute of Archaeology Library archive (Table 1), three box files of materials held in UCL Special Collections. Records are preserved from 1936–1964 (Box files 1 and 2) and 1975–1988/89 (Box file 3), forming two chronologically distinctive sets of records. Individual papers have not been catalogued to item level within the archive, so all letters used have been referenced by author/recipient/date, collection and box number (e.g. Kenyon to Browne: 18/05/1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2). Restricted materials and later materials from the Management Committee Minutes have been used in compliance with Data Protection requirements.

Table 1

Contents of Institute of Archaeology Library Archive.

Box File Number and Content Description Contents
Box File 1
Correspondence 1945–1964 3 files
Book Exchanges 1945–1964 1 file
Journals 1938–1956 2 files
Library Sales/Lost Books 1952–1961 1 files
Box File 2
Book purchases 1945–1948 5 files
Donations 1936–1948 2 files
Donations 1949–1964 1 file
Box File 3
Institute Finance Ledger 1945–1951 1 bound book
Manual Issues book 1944–1948 1 bound book
Equipment 1945–1948 1 file
Library Committee Minutes 1975–1988 (restricted) 1 bound book
Library Administration 1984–1989 (restricted) 1 file

Archives change as they are ordered, used and interpreted (Burton 2005: 19), but we know little about the context of these records. Later materials were apparently deposited during the merger of the Institute with UCL in 1985/6. Records from 1936–1964 were deposited after 1964 and the development of European currency exchange systems may have been responsible (Judt 2005: 108) as financial transactions would require less detailed record-keeping than previously. Alternatively Taylor may have simply tidied up for new interests: in 1964 she co-founded the Council for Nautical Archaeology (Frost 1983). The archive is not all-encompassing, reminding us of the power of archives to distort (Schwartz and Cook 2002: 12). It is essentially a bibliographic archive: vital administrative information is omitted, notably about the new library at Gordon Square (Annual Report 1984: 41). But this should not detract from its value; the actions and intentions of contributors are clear and there are no signs of attempts to create an idealised image of the library for posterity.

Archives have been used widely for the history of archaeology (e.g. Schlanger 2002; 2004), with an emphasis on the personal archives of leading archaeologists (e.g. Diaz-Andreu 2012; Diaz-Andreu et al. 2009): so-called ‘evidence of me’ (Hobbs 2001: 130). The Library archive is different: it is an organisational archive created by multiple agents engaged in business and administrative transactions. Correspondence with booksellers, librarians and administrators sits alongside correspondence with the ‘Golden Generation’ of early professional archaeologists – Christopher Hawkes, Mortimer Wheeler, O.G.S. Crawford and Gordon Childe (Diaz-Andreu et al. 2009: 417; Evans 1989; 2008) – revealing the inter-play of the administrative and economic with the intellectual and academic, the personal with the professional.

Early Years 1937–1946: The ‘Cinderella’ of the Institute?

The Institute of Archaeology opened formally in 1937 in St John’s Lodge, Regents Park and represented the culmination of the ambitions of its founder and first Director, Mortimer Wheeler (1890–1976) and his wife, Tessa Verney Wheeler (1893–1936), to establish an institution for the practical training of archaeologists in field techniques (Carr 2012: 146–150; Evans 1987). The new Institute was surrounded by libraries in London, many of them with relevant specialist collections: the Royal Archaeological Institute Library, the Society of Antiquaries Library, the British Museum Library, the London Library, the Hellenic and Roman Society Library and the Yates Classical Archaeology and Edwards Egyptology libraries of UCL (Bloomfield 1997: 396; Evans 1956; Irwin and Staveley 1964; Janssen 1992). But an Institute Library was planned from the outset, following the practice established by both national antiquarian institutions and local societies. Early Minutes mention two ‘important’ private libraries that when arranged and indexed would form this first Institute Library (Management Committee Minutes 1934: 2). By 1936, this library consisted of 2000 books and was established in the former private library of Lord Bute in St. John’s Lodge (Management Committee Minutes 1936: 2).

Funding for the new Institute was scarce and there was no budget for the library (Management Committee Minutes 1934: 2). Collections were largely on loan from other archaeological institutions, notably the British Archaeological Association and the Iraq Society, and from private individuals. Donations and bequests were the primary means of collections building (Management Committee Minutes 1938: 20) and pamphlets were heavily relied on to make up short-falls. There was some purchasing from second-hand booksellers, but this was limited: in 1942, only £12 was spent on the Library (Management Committee Minutes 1943: 1–2; 1942: 2). This early library was ‘seriously deficient in standard works’ (Management Committee Minutes 1938: 20) and the first students of the Institute had to do research in the British Museum Reading Room (Maxwell-Hyslop 2000: 9). Only Professor Sidney Smith (1889–1979), Management Committee member and lecturer in Near Eastern Archaeology, consistently championed the Library’s cause, even negotiating for unwanted books from the London Library (Smith to Kenyon: 10/07/1939, IoA Library Archive, Box 2). The importance of libraries for academic research was widely acknowledged (Roberts 1977: 464), but increasing library funds would have destroyed the Institute’s meagre capital (Management Committee Minutes 1943: 1–2). Not all consciences were quiet over this neglect; writing to the outgoing librarian, Colonel Browne, Kathleen Kenyon (Kenyon to Browne: 18/05/1938, IoA Library archive, Box 2) denies that the Library is the ‘Cinderella’ of the Institute – she has just spent £30 on it.

The library of the new Institute reflected the support it enjoyed from the ‘Golden Generation’ of ‘professional’ archaeologists (Diaz-Andreu 2012: 27), particularly those linked into Wheeler’s personal networks of influence in the 1930s (Stout 2008: 207–208). O.G.S. Crawford donated maps from the Ordnance Survey, the beginnings of the Library’s strong map collection (Richnell 1964: 223), with much grumping about his employers there (Crawford to Kenyon: 22/01/1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2) – their poor relationship is well-documented (Hauser 2009: 73–78). R.G. Collingwood donated the major portion of his archaeological library on his retirement, ‘materially increasing the usefulness of the library’ (Management Committee Minutes 1938: 3). But there was also substantial amateur investment in the Library, emphasising the fluidity of archaeology between the wars and illustrating Wheeler’s influence over the Society of Antiquaries, Royal Archaeological Institute and Museum of London (Stout 2008: 18). Donors ranged from the British Museum and local archaeological societies, including the Westmoreland Archaeological Society, to wealthy amateur ‘Big Men’ (Evans 2008: 226), notably George A. Macmillan, publisher, founding member and later President of the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, who left a bequest of books on Aegean Archaeology (Management Committee Minutes 1939: 2; Doyle 2010).

The Society of Antiquaries was particularly supportive of the new Institute (Evans 1956: 419). Bequests were received from leading members, notably from the libraries of Sir John Evans, Reginald Smith and Thomas Davies Pryce (Management Committee Minutes 1941: 3), and it was from the Society’s ranks that Wheeler recruited the labour to run his new Institute – enthusiastic, unpaid volunteers, often with private incomes and available time, hungry to work in a discipline in which there were few paid jobs (Stout 2008: 18). Help also came from the Royal Archaeological Institute, including initial advice, which came from ‘Miss D. Bromley from the Library of the Colonial Office’, an Institute member since 1933 (Management Committee Minutes 1934: 2; Royal Archaeological Institute 1934: 408). These volunteers are largely missing from foundation myths about the Institute of Archaeology, yet sources suggest that without them, impecunious as it was, it could not have functioned.

The first Institute Librarian (1936–1938), Lieutenant-Colonel Barwick Sharpe Browne (1881–1964) (Annual Report 1947: 13), was one of these volunteers, working part-time (Management Committee Minutes 1938: 4). Browne’s lack of professional experience was unexceptional (Cowley 1937: 70) and most archaeology libraries were maintained by Honorary Librarians, Secretaries or professors. Browne was a keen Kipling scholar, but most importantly was an amateur archaeologist, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and experienced administrator (Anon 1964). He was also an effective fund-raiser; Kathleen Kenyon remarks on gifts he has obtained at a party at the Society of Antiquaries (Kenyon to Kingsford: 08/02/1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2). The borrowing ledger of 1944–1947 (IoA Library Archive, Box 3) indicates that Browne created his own unique classification system, common practice at the time, (Duff Brown 1916: 14); he numbered bookshelves and kept a firm hand on library affairs (Kenyon to Browne 06/01: 1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2). Funds for the new Institute came largely from granting public access to facilities (Annual Report 1938), so making the Library easy to use for the public was also important (Fig. 1) and in line with wider contemporary focuses on education and popularising in libraries (Hewitt 2006: 73–74).

Figure 1
Figure 1

Institute of Archaeology Borrowing Ledger 1944–1947 (Photo UCL Institute of Archaeology).

Kathleen Kenyon’s (1906–1978) prestigious career makes it easy to forget that she worked as the Institute Secretary 1937–1942 (Davis 2008: 66–67) and clearly also did much of the day-to-day running of the Library. Writing to R.G. Collingwood (Kenyon to Collingwood: 08/09/1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2) she states: ‘I am for the most purposes the Librarian’. She was a formidably efficient administrator. No task was beneath her notice; she even arranges with the Duke of St Albans to call round to his club (Brookes) to collect his book donations (Kenyon to St Albans: 25/05/1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2). Library correspondence reveals Kenyon’s complex personality in fascinating detail. She had little time for Colonel Browne; she writes disparagingly to Vera Dallas, Secretary of the Royal Archaeological Institute (Kenyon to Dallas: 31/01/1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2): ‘one has to put up with a certain amount of fussing when Colonel Browne gets an idea that he wants books in a hurry’. Attempts by the Colonel to ‘manage’ his replacement in 1938 are rebuffed (Browne to Kenyon: 10/05/1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2; Kenyon to Browne: 18/05/1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2): she rejects A. E. Steel, Clerk of the Society Library (Evans 1956; 396; Society of Antiquaries 1921; 265), who has offered to help out, in favour of her own appointee – ‘Patch’, Miss Florence M. Patchett (Annual Report 1947: 13). Patchett (1880–1955) had no library experience, but was an Institute volunteer, had excavated at Maiden Castle and specialised in Cornish Bronze Age pottery (Anon 1955; Thomas 2012: 124). Letters also reveal that in the pursuit of donations or with personal acquaintances, Kenyon could be surprisingly warm and charming. ‘I do wish that it was not archaeology that you were giving up’, she writes to R.G. Collingwood, who is suffering from ill-health (Kenyon to Collingwood: 08/09 1938, IoA Library Archive, Box 2).

Post-War: Prestige and Stability, 1946–1964

The post-war period saw significant changes in the fortunes of the Institute of Archaeology, ushering a period of financial stability, increased professionalism and growing international prestige. Expansion became possible after 1943 with the Institute’s formal designation as the focus of archaeology teaching and research within the University of London (Evans 1987: 15). Also significant was the appointment of Vere Gordon Childe (1892–1957) as Professor of European Archaeology and the Institute’s new Director in 1946 (Trigger 1980: 124). Post-war, Childe was at the pinnacle of his international fame, his connections spanning both sides of the newly-descended Iron Curtain (Diaz-Andreu 2009).

New funding enabled the expansion of the Library and the appointment of the Institute’s first full-time, paid library team: a librarian, Joan du Plat Taylor, and library clerk and later assistant librarian, Gerry Talbot (Talbot 1987: 27; Annual Report 1947; 1948: 28). Thomas (2013: 141) describes Taylor as ‘a gracious yet firm lady’ and Talbot as ‘jolly’. Taylor, Librarian 1945–1970, is best known as a pioneer of Nautical Archaeology (Hirschfeld 2004: 9). She had excavated at Maiden Castle and letters between her and Mortimer Wheeler have an easy familiarity. He teases her: ‘what a plaguey nuisance the fellow is’ (Wheeler to Taylor: 29/03/1948, IoA Library Archive, Box 1). Taylor had also excavated with Kenyon at Leicester (Davis 2008: 79). She had no previous experience and never gained formal qualifications in librarianship, she remained an archaeologist and continued to excavate while working as Institute Librarian. Redknap and Croome (1987: 141) have emphasised Taylor’s superb ability to delegate and letters reveal the vast network of contacts she commanded. She exploited the personal/professional ambiguities of her network with great skill: Illid Anthony (1926–2012), who had worked in the library cataloguing lantern slides, was persuaded while attending the IV International Congress of Prehistoric and Protosciences in Spain in 1954 to arrange library exchanges with the Archaeological Museum of Barcelona (Annual Report 1952: 8; Diaz-Andreu 2012: 278).

Gerry Talbot, Librarian from 1970–1975, also began her career in the Institute as a volunteer, making the transition to permanent staff as Library Clerk/Assistant Librarian in 1946 (Talbot 1987). Like Taylor, she became a respected Near Eastern archaeologist (Western 2001), but unlike Taylor, she also trained formally as a librarian, qualifying in 1950 (Management Committee Minutes 1949b: 2) (Fig. 2). Both Taylor and Talbot developed strong connections with other libraries, particularly within the University of London. These connections were to the Institute’s advantage; post-war the University contained 74 libraries holding over 3 million volumes and a number of specialist research collections (Pafford 1964: 148), as well as a thriving Library School and was at the forefront of contemporary developments in professional practice (Palmer 1966). The University of London provided funds for the Institute Library and in return, had the right to inspect the Library; provided bibliographical information and advice on cataloguing and disposal of duplicates and made recommendations for improvement (Pafford 1964: 148). Minutes reveal close links with UCL and the Institute of Historical Research (Management Committee Minutes 1948:3). Letters also survive discussing co-operative purchasing of materials with J. H. P. Pafford, Goldsmith’s Librarian of the University of London (1900–1996) (e.g. Taylor to Pafford: 26/08/1949, IoA Library Archive, Box 1).

Figure 2
Figure 2

The St John’s Lodge Library. Taylor and Talbot with their backs to the camera, pictured shelving books together (Photo UCL Institute of Archaeology).

The Library was used and appreciated by the academic staff (e.g. Simpson 2001) and the librarians were fully integrated into the organisation of the Institute. Gordon Childe was a keen supporter, recognising the need for subject knowledge and professionalism (Management Committee Minutes 1949b: 2). The archive reveals his active involvement: he arranged exchanges (e.g. Childe to Schück: 19/07/1948, IoA Library Archive, Box 1) and lists of German publications required from EPCOM (the Enemy Wartime Publications Committee) are annotated in his distinctive hand-writing. This is not surprising: Childe had been assistant librarian at the Royal Anthropological Institute and at the University of Edinburgh had assembled the Class Library (Ralson 2009: 49). In spite of this support, the two women were poorly paid; their struggles to improve this (e.g. Management Committee Minutes 1946; 1955: 1) should be seen within the contexts of the contemporary gender pay gap and wider social attitudes to working women (Dyhouse 1995; Holloway 2005: 194–207). They also hint at tensions between more highly paid academic staff and administrative staff, many of whom were also professional archaeologists.

By 1949, the St John’s Lodge Library contained over 10,000 books and periodicals and had long outgrown Lord Bute’s private library. There was a spacious reading room with seating for 100 and good facilities, including a small periodicals room (Ashmole et al. 1949). On the move to the Institute’s new quarters in Gordon Square, the Library occupied most of the first floor, but was significantly smaller: an ante-room for the catalogues, lantern slides and maps, central stack for the bulk of the books and a reading room to seat only 24, in addition to staff offices (Annual Report 1959: 11). Collections concentrated on European and Western Asiatic Archaeology, but anthropology, geography, geology, chemistry and anatomy were also included, reflecting the broad scope of the archaeology diploma (then taught at the Institute). By 1964, the Library held 15,000 books, but its strengths were its non-book materials: collections of archaeological photographs, air-photos of the Near East, maps, and over 10,000 archaeological lantern slides (Richnell 1964: 223). The Library was still comparatively poor: its annual expenditure in 1964 was £4681 compared to UCL’s £77,376 (Richnell 1964: 212) and it could not afford to invest in older materials, meaning that it depended on gifts and bequests to fill this short-fall. Several prestigious private libraries were left to the Institute, including those of Harold Peake (1867–1946) (Annual Report 1948: 11) and Gordon Childe (Green 1981: 114). Pamphlets, a common feature of academic libraries, were also a significant component of collections; Harold Peake’s library contained over 880 (Annual Report 1948: 12).

The classifying/cataloguing systems used to manage the Library’s collections contributed significantly to the Library’s development as an international research library for Archaeology. Taylor used her subject knowledge to create research tools specially designed for use by archaeologists, adapting the standard contemporary tools recommended by the British Museum Library: author index, subject index and catalogues (Roberts 1977: 464; Annual Report 1947: 9; 1952: 8). Particularly innovative was the site index (Fig. 3), which provided bibliographic details about archaeological sites that could be searched and cross-referenced; it pre-dates electronic databases by over fifty years and may have been derived from the pioneering topographical index of the Library of the Royal Archaeological Institute (Royal Archaeological Institute 1890: 1).

Figure 3
Figure 3

Entry for Scarborough from the Site Index (Photo UCL Library Services).

Also remarkable is the classification scheme that Taylor developed to enable browsing of the Library’s shelves (Table 2). Taylor based this system on the Brown Subject Classification, created by municipal librarian James Duff Brown (1862–1914), which would have been familiar to users from public libraries (Duff Brown 1916; Beghtol 2004; Bowman 2005). Taylor did not adopt the entire scheme, rather its key principles, notably putting a place/country first and then sub-dividing using categorical/chronological tables (Beghtol 2004; Bowman 2005). The scheme demonstrates her grasp of the complexities of archaeology, her confidence as a librarian and her desire to create a widely accessible library. Although idiosyncratic, the scheme is so flexible that it remains in use today in the UCL Institute of Archaeology Library, but it testifies more to Taylor’s identity as an archaeologist than a librarian. In choosing to create a unique classification scheme, she was acting in opposition to moves in professional librarianship to increase standardisation (Bowman 2005).

Table 2

Institute of Archaeology Library Classification Schemes (Meheux 2007).

Institute Subject
A Theory & practice of Archaeology
B Archaeology & Prehistory
C History [discontinued]
D Archaeology, History & Topography by Countries
E Anthropology [discontinued]
F Religion & Mythology
G Philology
H Ancient Life
J Science
K Ancient Art & Technology
L Conservation
M Museum Studies

Donations and exchange correspondence preserved in the archive allow us to see how the Library’s networks expanded post-war, demonstrating its growing international reputation. Staff contacts and networks were crucial. Staff regularly donated books, as did students, including Sinclair Hood (Annual Report 1954: 5; Green 1981: 110), Grace Simpson (Annual Report 1959: 10) and the glamorous Parisian ex-model and Allied spy turned archaeologist ‘Toto’ Koopman (Liaut 2013; Annual Report 1955: 9; 1956: 6; 1961: 15). Many donations were gifts from visiting scholars, organisations or institutions, for example the industrial archaeologist Arthur Raistrick (Annual Report 1954: 5), Kyosho University (Annual Report 1957: 5), Istanbul Museum (Annual Report 1954: 5) and the French Embassy (Annual Report 1954: 5). As was common throughout academic libraries, exchanges were widely used to overcome currency problems (Lorkovic and Johnson 1997: 64), particularly for obtaining materials from Eastern Europe (Annual Report 1954: 4).

Alongside these impressive international academic connections we can see the ‘hidden’ agents who sustained archaeological networks: booksellers, publishers, libraries, librarians, curators and administrators. Many of these agents lived ‘double’ lives, working as both administrators and archaeologists, including H.J.H Drummond, Aberdeen University Librarian, formerly lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology and assistant to Childe at Edinburgh University (Aberdeen University; Annual Report 1955: 9). These agents facilitated the exchange of materials, stretched limited funds ingeniously and shored up their community. Publishers and booksellers produced lists that kept everyone up to date with the latest research: But more importantly, at a time when decisions to publish books were largely made on publishers’ personal choice (Bradley 2008: iix), close links with them allowed the British archaeological community to influence its published output and print identity and therefore ultimately the material in libraries.

A modern library: 1964–1985/6

The final decades of the independent Institute of Archaeology saw mixed fortunes. The 1960s were a time of unprecedented growth in Higher Education in Britain (Judt 2005: 392), including the Institute, where the first BA and BSc programs were introduced in 1968 (Annual Report 1969: 287). But this expansion gave way to financial difficulties in the late 1970s/early 1980s, necessitating the merger with UCL in 1985/6 (Evans 1987). In spite of the Library’s well-established independence, shared finances meant that its fortunes followed those of the Institute and like many libraries at this time (Roberts 1977: 465–466), ingenious attempts to manage funds, space and staffing foundered (Annual Report 1987).

Information on these last decades comes largely from the Library Reports and we lack the multiple voices present in the early records of the Library Archive. Library reports are detailed and fascinating, but they have been carefully controlled by their librarian authors to portray their version of events. Management Committee Minutes help to fill the gaps. The Report of a Working Party on the Library, submitted during final uncertain months, and critical of the library, was poorly received (Management Committee Minutes 1985). It is not mentioned in the final Library Report (Annual Report 1987), but it gives us a valuable final ‘snapshot’ of the Library, its resources, space and staffing. The Library now contained 23670 books, 23781 periodicals and 19383 pamphlets, supporting a user community of 450 borrowing members and 380 regular readers. There were extensive microfilm and map collections, as well as a range of subject tools, criticised as old-fashioned (Management Committee Minutes 1985). The Library occupied the whole of the first floor of the Gordon Square building (Fig. 4), having expanded in 1967/8 and 1971/2 to meet increased demands for seating (Annual Report 1969: 287; 1973: 20). This, however, was not altogether successful. In 1974, problems of overcrowding led to limits on public access with the introduction of an annual subscription (Annual Report 1975: 29). The Library’s relationship with the public, once so crucial, had now been overwhelmed by the demands of Higher Education.

Figure 4
Figure 4

The First Floor Gordon Square Library (Photo UCL Institute of Archaeology).

Heather Bell, Librarian from 1975 to 1985, was the last Librarian of the independent Institute (Croome 1986). She began working as an Assistant Librarian at the Institute in 1967 (Management Committee Minutes 1966: 2). Whilst active in Archaeology, particularly Nautical Archaeology (Croome 1986), she did not have the divided loyalties of her predecessors and it is with her that we see once characteristic academic/administrative ambiguities disappear. Bell was a new type of professional librarian: a ‘manager/librarian’ (Roberts 1977: 471) and was very active in librarianship networks. She sat on the Archaeology Sub-Committee of the Library Resources Co-ordinating Committee for the University of London (Annual Report 1978: 27) and she ensured that the Library adhered to new international professional practices, adopting standard Anglo-American cataloguing rules (AACR2) and the Union List of Serials (Annual Report 1982: 35).

Throughout much of the Library’s history, staffing had consisted of Taylor and Talbot, with extra help as required. But staff numbers increased throughout these last decades, rising to a team of four in 1969, five in 1976 and peaking at nine in 1983–4 (Annual Report 1970: 20; 1976: 35; 1985: 45). Traditional patterns of subject knowledge and librarianship were maintained: some library assistants were qualified professionals, others, notably Isobel Thompson, were archaeologists (Annual Report 1984: 41). This sizeable team was needed to manage the volume of work and extended opening hours caused by the increase in student numbers. They issued and returned books, registered visitors and assisted with new technologies – a photocopier and microfilm reader (Annual Report 1973: 23; 1980: 29; 1982: 33; 1983: 37). But most importantly, they maintained the new customer-facing services now required from effective libraries (Roberts 1977: 467). Book spines were labelled for the first time to assist customers in browsing (Annual Report 1972: 20) and Bell prepared two lectures to explain the library system and the bibliographic aids available, but with limited success (Annual Report 1977: 28).

Book collections continued to be expanded, but at a reduced rate, owing to a steady decline in book funds and rising costs. Funds were limited, but readily available, in the 1960s (e. g. Annual Report 1965: 135), but they later became inadequate, as is repeatedly stated (e.g. Annual Report 1987: 46). Good relations between archaeologists and publishers began to break down in the 1960s, owing to increased commercialisation of the book trade. In the 1980s many traditional publishing partners were swallowed up by international conglomerates (Bradley 2008: 169–176; xi–xii), ending once favourable connections permanently. Ingenious solutions were used to make up shortfalls, demonstrating the financial creativity of the librarians, particularly Bell. Traditional donations and exchanges continued to be used to great advantage; the Library received significant bequests, notably from Taylor (Annual Report 1984: 41). Duplicate pamphlets were sold (Annual Report 1985: 46); grants were used to purchase specialist materials, notably a grant from the central University of London Library of £600 to buy Latin American books (Annual Report 1984: 43). A library licence was obtained from Dillons Bookshop, providing a discount of 10% on all books purchased (Annual Report 1979: 29). Staff were also asked to donate books they received free for review (Annual Report 1977: 28); in 1984–5, the value of books received for review was £1848.95 (Annual Report 1987: 47)

The addition of the Human Environment Department and Conservation Department Libraries greatly increased pressure on space and necessitated a revision of the classification and subject indexes (Annual Report 1967: 1969; 1979: 28). Whilst collections continued to be expanded, supporting increased numbers of students necessitated new approaches to managing them (Roberts 1977: 470). A number of strategies were tried to ensure that students had access to vital materials: increased loans, limiting external borrowing, use of microfilms and a restricted loan collection (Annual Report 1985). Older materials were routinely sent to Stores (e.g. Annual Report 1983: 37). But patterns of increased book theft may suggest that these strategies were not wholly successful. Heavy book losses had always been a problem (Management Committee Minutes 1949), but final years see an increase in theft (Annual Report 1976: 36; 1985: 45); 1977–8 saw this peak: the number of books stolen rose from 33 to 112 (Annual Report 1979: 34). The pattern of book theft seen here is indicative of opportunistic student theft in response to academic pressure on resources (Mansfield 2009: 11; Allen 1997).

The final Library Report (Annual Report 1987) and the unpublished Working Party Report of 1985 (Management Committee Minutes 1985) reveal the anomalous position of the Library prior to its merger with UCL Library Services. The Library enjoyed an independent reputation within the international archaeological community, maintaining an impressive network of exchanges and donations. In 1984–5, these encompassed K. Jazdzewski; British Steel Corporation; the Committee for the Preservation of the Acropolis Monuments; the Embassy of Israel; the National Museum of Korea; the Smithsonian Institute and English Heritage (Annual Report 1987: 49). Visitors flocked to use it: 875 signed the visitor’s book on first visit and 1900 signed the day book on subsequent visit (Annual Report 1987: 48). Yet facilities were old-fashioned owing to under-investment. ‘Mechanisation’, i.e. computerised systems, was recommended, but the Library was so poor it had withdrawn Inter-Library loans, reduced opening hours and limited cataloguing, causing much resentment amongst students (Management Committee Minutes 1985). Its financial dependence was problematic; the withdrawal of some library funds to support a part-time Secretary for the Human Environment Department is recorded (Annual Report 1987: 45). The Library needed funds, independence and recognition of its worth; the merger with UCL Library Services would do much to facilitate these.


Examination of sources has revealed the history of the Institute of Archaeology Library: its collections, space, staffing and networks of communication and revealed the valuable contribution that a study of an institutional library can make to the general history of archaeology. From uncertain beginnings, the Library expanded in status and reputation within both the international archaeological community and the library profession, staunchly aided by volunteers who are largely written out of established myths of the Institute’s history. The Library owed its later success to the energy and ingenuity of its librarians and it is through their activities and contacts that we can see the ‘invisible people’, both amateur and professional, active in the international archaeological community. The fluid nature of this community allowed Kathleen Kenyon to move from administration to academic prestige and Joan Du Plat Taylor to foster the beginnings of Nautical Archaeology. Relations with the Institute community were largely supportive, but the Library’s financial dependency and its professional independence were always anomalous and caused conflict in its final years. Under the pressure of changes in Higher Education, professionalization and commercialism, this once unified community dissolved into disparate communities of practice, closely linked but with their own individual identities.

As part of UCL Library Services, the Institute Library continues to maintain both these historic links and its independence, supporting the teaching and research of the Institute, acknowledging its joint history, but looking to wider practices in librarianship to inform current practice, and to UCL to plan for future developments.

Competing Interests

The author declares that they have no competing interests.


Many thanks to Rachael Sparks, Keeper of Museums Collections, for access to the Institute of Archaeology Management Committee Minutes and to Gill Furlong of UCL Special Collections Library for looking over restricted collections and discussing Data Protection requirements.


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