Written by Jessica Cebra, ICFA Departmental Assistant
Measuring tools are essential to archaeological surveys, excavations, and other kinds of fieldwork. Measurements not only lend themselves to the documentation process, but offer a sense of scale to those who did not see the object or site in person. Amongst the images of scaffolding, trenches, and crumbling brickwork within ICFA’s fieldwork photographs, you will find records of a wide range of conservation, restoration, and measuring tools, whether it be a meter stick or millimeter strip. The conventional measuring stick one sees is commonly hovering in a corner or almost camouflaged in the visual texture of an image.
As I page through dozens of our fieldwork image binders to match them with our photo negatives collection, I sometimes come across examples where it is obvious that a standard measuring tool was not available to the fieldworkers and photographers at the time. Instead, they got creative and grabbed the next best thing, as seen below:
Perhaps the open book was used for the purpose of shielding the inscription from light glare, and maybe the pen was being used to point at something very specific, but no matter, they’re still effective, and quirky, ways of depicting scale to a viewer. Not only are hands, limbs and feet useful, but whole human bodies, especially of varying sizes!
While engaging in the life of fieldwork through the window of thousands of photographs, I have been able to successfully reorganize a substantial portion of ICFA’s negatives in cold storage. This process began with drafting an arrangement plan based on the chronology of fieldwork projects sponsored by the former Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks from 1930 through 1979.
This reorganization and rehousing project frees up storage space for new prospective acquisitions, while also maintaining a relationship between the archival collections in ICFA’s main stacks and their corresponding photographic materials in cold storage. The first phase has involved shifting negatives and their boxes into proper order, as well as integrating other negatives found elsewhere in ICFA. The boxes are currently assigned temporary identifiers that will change once everything is in place.
Many of the fieldwork photographs were created with a Leica 35mm camera and the negatives are stored as 6-frame strips. Initially, the “Leica” negatives occupied thirty boxes where much of the box volume was unnecessarily wasted due to ill-fitting boxes. Now, the same number live in only twenty boxes, which are closely fitted to the size of the negatives, thus creating more space in the freezers for other collections.
This process will continue as I move onto ICFA’s collections associated with individual scholars, which include study materials and documentation and preparatory materials for publications and corpora. As this project continues, along with the ongoing processsing of ICFA’s archival collections and the implementation of our CMS (AtoM), the knowledge of, and access to, these collections will only grow!