The Griffith Institute
University of Oxford

Catalogue now online!

15th December 2016

The catalogue to the Percy Newberry collection is now available online here! It has been such a pleasure to work at the Griffith Institute and my thanks go to The National Archives who have funded my position and allowed me to work on such a fascinating collection of material.

Although still a work in progress, we hope ultimately that this website, published using the archival software AtoM, will become the single access point to all the collections held at the Griffith Institute Archive, enabling researchers to search across collections, browse contextual information and download digital images of items.

The home page of the Griffith Institute Archive's new online catalogue

What a difference a year makes

9th December 2016

Stacks before and after
Stacks before and after

It is hard to believe it is almost the end of the year which also means the end of the Newberry Project. I have been busy putting the finishing touches to the catalogue and making sure everything is properly housed. As you can see from these before and after shots the transformation is now complete!

The catalogue will be published very soon using the archival software AtoM with a link from the Griffith Institute website. We hope to publish more and more collection catalogues using this software making the incredible material held in the Griffith Institute Archive much more accessible.

A case of a somewhat 'singular and novel character'

26th August 2016

In Newberry's collection of genealogical material are these newspaper articles from 1872 relating to 'a case of a somewhat "singular and novel character"'. The case was between Mr. Newberry (presumably Percy Newberry's Father) and his neighbour Mr. Wilson, whose colts were killed when they ate a Yew tree cut down by Mr. Newberry's wife. The general opinion seems to be that it was unfair for Mr. Newberry to have to pay the price for the actions of his defiant wife, and is well summed by this wry statement: 'These two gentlemen might, perhaps, have lived beside each other in peace under more favourable circumstances. But, unfortunately, Mr. Wilson owned a couple of colts, and Mr. Newberry, a wife, and a yew tree'.

'A case of a somewhat "singular and novel character"'

Out with the old and in with the new

19th August 2016

I have now begun rehousing the Newberry material, starting with the correspondence, in acid free folders and acid free boxes. It won't be long until the material is fully rehoused and the stack is a uniform display of grey archive boxes!

New correspondence boxes Old correspondence boxes
Rehoused correspondence

The Tomb of the Ramesseum Papyri

1st July 2016

The most recent issue of the British Museum's online journal British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan (BMSAES) is dedicated to the recently retired papyrus conservator Bridget Leach. It includes an article by me and Professor Richard Parkinson on a note found in Percy Newberry's papers hinting at the location of the Tomb of the Ramesseum Papyri which has never been located. The article is available online here.

Footnote relating to the Tomb of the Ramesseum Papyri

Happy International Archives Day

6th June 2016

Celebrating International Archives Day at the Griffith Institute with this lovely image from the Newberry collection of a boy at the Shrine of Hatshepsut.

Boy at the Shrine of Hatshepsut

When two worlds collide

26th February 2016

As well as working at the Griffith Institute I work part time as Archivist for the Rhodes Trust. I was therefore very excited to find in some autobiographical notes that Newberry met Cecil Rhodes! It appears Newberry began to organise his papers towards the end of his life and the collection includes lists of correspondence he received as well as diary notes and lists of people he met. It is fascinating to imagine what the two made of each other and what they talked about!

Cecil Rhodes
Cecil Rhodes in Newberry's notes

Christmas Family Gathering

17th December 2015

In the lead up to Christmas I thought I would share these amazing pictures of Percy Newberry's extended family which he collected as part of his own genealogical research, including a picture of his mother Sarah, taken in 1905.

Newberry's family photographs Newberry's Mother
Photographs of Percy Newberry's family

Tuesday Seminar

19th November 2015

On Tuesday I gave a seminar to students of Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies in the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford. The talk started with an introduction to the Griffith Institute and the range of material available at the Griffith Institute Archive. I then went on to give a brief biography of Percy Newberry highlighting interesting items from the collection, and finished by talking about the process of cataloguing a collection and efforts at the Griffith Institute to improve accessibility. The presentation was well received and I am pleased to have survived giving my first seminar!

Me presenting at the Tuesday Seminar


23rd September 2015

Letter to John Newberry in 1891
Letter from Percy Newberry to his brother John in 1891

I came across this amusing letter today sent from Newberry to his brother John in 1891. The top half of the letter is perhaps meant to represent a swarm of locusts but there does not seem to be any explanation for the animal below! Newberry has ended the letter: 'Please excuse this extraordinarily written letter but I feel awfully silly tonight and write my silliness to you with love to all. Yours ever Percy'.

Little letter

7th September 2015

Marie Little letter
Letter written by Marie Little

Cataloguing the correspondence is still progressing well. I recently came across this amazing letter and envelope, written in April 1904 by Marie Little (no joke!). It simply reads 'I send my sincerest good wishes for many happy years of happy days. M.L.'.


12th August 2015

I have now finished a draft listing of all of Newberry's research material and have started listing his correspondence. The correspondence was catalogued and arranged by Warren Dawson prior to being accessioned to the archive and is currently organised alphabetically by correspondent.

As well as Dawson’s reference number many of the letters have also been numbered by Newberry. As these numbers are not sequential for each correspondent, it would suggest that Newberry had a different system for arranging his correspondence. I am keeping track of these numbers and hope that once I have finished listing it might be possible to deduce what this system was. It might also be possible to use these numbers to work out whether there is any correspondence missing.

The correspondence is very interesting and I am finding several useful references to his research. The majority of his research material is not dated and as he did not publish a lot of what he was working on, I am hoping that his correspondence might be the key to determining when he was researching what.

Project milestone

18th June 2015

The first project milestone - I have listed the 100th item in the Newberry collection, hooray! It's an envelope of photographs including the amusing shot below of some goats in a tree! The tracing is from one of Newberry's notebooks and comes from a watercolour by Winifred Firth of a wall in the tomb of Akhmeretnesut (G2184), now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, see here.

Newberry MSS. XIII/E.A. Goats in a tree - photo Newberry MSS. XIII/F.B. Goats in a tree - tracing
Photograph and tracing of goats from the Newberry collection


2nd June 2015

At the Griffith Institute we have been looking at open source software options for managing our archival collections. As anyone will know who has visited our archive, we have paper catalogues for our collections and we are also able to draw on the experience of long-serving members of staff.

We would now like to bring all of this information together into a single system. This will ensure that current knowledge it captured and, by using professional software, that we are meeting international standards for archival description.

The software we are currently trialling is called AtoM which stands for Access to Memory ( It was built with support from the International Council on Archives and is already being used by a number of archives in the UK.

We plan to use the Newberry Project to trial the software and assess its suitability for the Griffith Institute. It will hopefully mean that in the future it will be possible to search across collections held in the archive, browse collections using index terms and descriptions of contextual entities and link from archival descriptions to records in the Topographical Bibliography and the Online Egyptological Bibliography. So watch this space!

Let the listing begin

15th May 2015

Example of notes in the Newberry collection

Having completed a basic box list, this week I have started listing the Newberry material in more detail. As I don't have a background in Egyptology trying to understand Newberry's notes is quite a challenge. Probably the most obvious obstacle I have come across is that a lot of the material is in hieroglyphs. As you can imagine it is very difficult to describe something which you don't understand! However my very kind colleagues have given me a crash course in transliteration, transcription and translation, and introduced me to Gardiner's book on Egyptian Grammar, which I have a feeling I am going to become very well acquainted with.

Then there's Newberry's handwriting...the vocabulary of Kings and Queens, Gods, temples, pyramids, animals, plants...not to mention all the acronyms!

Happy Birthday!

23rd April 2015

Happy Birthday Percy Newberry! Born on this day in 1869. To celebrate I would like to share an interesting find from the collection. I have been going through Newberry's correspondence and found a letter from Howard Carter, in which he talks about painting birds at Beni Hasan and Cairo Zoo. This is particularly interesting as the Griffith Institute holds a number of Carter's watercolours, including birds from Beni Hasan such as this Red-Backed Shrike. More images of Carter's watercolours are available here. It is so fascinating to find these links between collections and highlights the richness of the Institute's holdings.

Carter MSS. vii.1.5.1 Red-Backed Shrike Carter MSS. vii.1.5.2 Red-Backed Shrike
Images from an album of Howard Carter's watercolours of birds and animals.

Project Archivist starts work

2nd April 2015

It is with great pleasure this week that I have taken up the position of Project Archivist and begun work on the Percy Newberry collection. The position is the result of funding received from The National Archives to catalogue Newberry's papers and publish a finding aid online. I will be working over the next year to learn as much as I can about Percy Newberry and to sort, arrange and list the collection held at the Griffith Institute. It is a fascinating collection which I will endeavour to share with you as I become better acquainted with it. If you would like any more information on the project or have information relating to Percy Newberry which you think might be of relevance then please email me at The following description of the Newberry material strangely wasn't included in the job description:

'I should like to put it on record that to my mind any such systematic cataloguing is a practical impossibility for any one person, if indeed it can ever be accomplished at all. Such a process would require unlimited time, and the knowledge of a specialist in every field of Egyptian studies, in order that the thousands of minute scraps of paper bearing unidentifiable notes should be placed in context, and the equally numerous references be looked up and their precise relevance deduced. An elementary acquaintance with the principles of graphology would also be of assistance, and the disposition of a saint essential.'

J.R.Harris, 1954.

The Newberry Collection - Project Archivist vacancy

November 2014

We are delighted to announce that The National Archives has awarded a cataloguing grant to the Griffith Institute as being one of the successful “projects identified as having the greatest transformative effect on particular areas of research, on the services involved and their users”. This grant will enable the Griffith Institute to appoint a professional archivist, on a one year, fixed-term contract, to catalogue the papers of the British Egyptologist, Percy Edward Newberry (1869-1949).

Newberry’s papers have long been recognised as being a wealth of information, which is expected to reveal answers to some of Egyptology’s current conundrums. The nature of the Newberry papers makes them a glorious challenge in themselves, but this project will be rewarding for the fortunate archivist who takes on this challenging task.

The Newberry MSS on a table in the Griffith Institute Archive room
A selection of the Newberry MSS on a table in the Griffith Institute Archive room
A selection of the Newberry MSS on table in the Griffith Institute Archive room.