The John Hurst Archive

Over the past 4 weeks I’ve had the pleasure of working at the British Museum with medieval curator Beverley Nenk and one of my 2nd year students on an assessment of the John Hurst archive. John was one of the founding fathers of medieval pottery studies and his seminal work on imported pottery in particular remains invaluable. The aim of the assessment was, first and foremost, to find out what materials were present within the several filing cabinets, boxes and card indexes deposited with the British Museum on his death and to try to determine its value for researchers and how best the information might be made available.

Part of the archive prior to sorting
Part of the archive prior to sorting

Fortunately the archive is arranged logically and our task was, mostly, fairly straightforward. All of the paperwork has now been re-boxed using archive suitable materials and we have created a basic inventory. The bulk of the material, and by far the most important, are John’s records relating to imported medieval pottery. These consist of lists, notes and drawings of imported pottery sorted by country of origin and type. The lists are extremely comprehensive (albeit only extending up until the mid 1990s) and formed the basis of many of John’s publications on medieval pottery. We have been thinking about how best to make these notes available to researchers and it seems that a GIS database of the findspots and associated information would perhaps be the best course of action, and we will be looking into this in due course. There are also a range of other notes relating to specific sites and projects in which John was involved, although much of this is of limited value as it has been re-produced in print. There is also a substantial volume of correspondence relating to a variety of topics, which include all sorts of nuggets of wisdom and information, which will undoubtedly prove to be a useful reference resource in the future. As well as the notes there are a substantial number of offprints and publications which will be accessioned into the British Museum library. They will be marked as being part of the Hurst archive, meaning that it should be possible to search the contents of the archive, which includes a range of hard to get publications, particularly literature from foreign journals not widely available in the UK.

If you have an interest in using the archive, or ideas for how it might be developed as a resource, please do let me know!

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