This guest blogpost was written by Deborah Harlan, who contributed to the ‘Interactive Fieldwork Database Project’ and helped to mentor our student volunteers.
Decades ago convergence was being batted around as a ‘buzz word’ by data providers, including academic institutions, libraries, and archives. Of course, this term referred to the rapidly developing Internet that was striving to ‘converge’ various networking services – audio, visual, and data – into one. With our smart phones and computers today, we can hardly conceive of a time without the ability to communicate by seeing, speaking, hearing and reading on one device.
Without network convergence, the Interactive Fieldwork database project would not have got off the ground with its team of remote volunteers, regular Zoom consultations, and the use of Google Docs to collate raw data. My role in this project provided another form of convergence combining unpublished archive material with published data detailing BSA fieldwork. I was tasked with overseeing the collation of information on the older – primarily pre-WWII – archaeological explorations and other forms of scholarly activity (such as study tours, architectural studies, and ethnographic and linguistic explorations).. I was assigned this material, in part, because of my long-term project cataloguing and understanding the BSA SPHS Image Collection. Among many other things, that collection of images visually chronicled early BSA fieldwork activity. Subsequently, I wrote a number of BSA Archive Stories on these activities. The excavation history of the BSA was told in a series of posts. Digging I and Digging II told the story of earliest 19th century explorations. These were followed by blogs about the BSA’s interest in Crete (Digging Crete) and several detailing the extensive early interest in Sparta and Laconia (Sparta Groundwork, Sparta Begins and Return to Sparta). Other investigations by BSA scholars were told in more Archive Stories such as the survey work by Frederick Hasluck at Cyzicus (>The Cyzicus Question), and by Alan Wace and Maurice Thompson in Thessaly (Magoula Hunting).
Slowly the excavation archives of the BSA are being digitised and made available on Digital Collections (see Digital Collections: Excavation Records). While the BSA Archive contains excavation records of many of the projects initiated or sponsored by the BSA (see Archive Collections: Excavation Records), they are not all inclusive and a number of fieldwork records are housed in other institutions. However, two recent successful projects reunited virtually Archive material held in both the BSA and Cambridge University that relate to Alan Wace’s excavation activities at Mycenae and in Thessaly and Macedonia, providing a template for how such data-sharing can happen. These two digital archive projects, together with the Interactive Fieldwork database project, aim to provide a more comprehensive picture of BSA fieldwork activity.
Of course, archaeological and other work continued by BSA members after WWII. In the case of some areas – particularly Knossos, Palaikastro, Sparta and Mycenae – BSA researchers returned to explore them further. The mapping tool of the Interactive Fieldwork project allows the listing of multi-period interest in specific locations and sites. It is fair to say that the BSA’s 135 years of fieldwork activity has covered a lot of ground, generated a massive amount of archival material and publications which now – with data convergence – have the potential to be accessed in a single source.