This month I launched a new website: www.petra1929.co.uk. It's a digital transcription of a unique document chronicling the first intensive excavations at Petra in 1929. This is a document I've wanted to do more with for a long time. It's held in the Institute of Archaeology, part of a larger archive of material belonging to the archaeologists Agnes Conway Horsfield and George Horsfield. They were two key members of the team excavating at and researching Petra in 1929.
I've been researching Agnes Conway and George Horsfield for many years now, but with the project (and the funding supporting it from the Council for British Research in the Levant) I was able to focus on the Petra material in a way I hadn't been able to before. In order to illuminate the Diary further (and with the indispensable help of Stuart Laidlaw in the Institute's Photography Lab) I digitised quite a few negatives in the Horsfield archive as well. About 70 of these have been captioned and incorporated into the website – either added into entries (where that made sense) or into the indexes and essays.
In putting the website together, I wanted to provide users not only with a way to access the Diary, but also to gain a deeper understanding of the time period in which it was written. So there is extra content on the site. You'll find essays exploring different aspects of this historical context, as well as indexes with further information on the people and places mentioned in the Diary. This contextual research was, for me, just as important as enabling access to the Diary.
So, for example, over the course of the research I learned more about what happened in Petra during the First World War. Not only was a German-Turkish archaeological unit based there, but (unsurprisingly) those who lived in and around Petra took part in wartime activity. As it happened, over the recent holidays I received a relevant present (ok I picked it out myself): a 1920 issue of Asia: The American Magazine on the Orient containing an article by American journalist Lowell Thomas on Thomas Edward Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia", who was based in and around Petra while participating in the Arab Revolt.
You can read more about the project in my post on the CBRL's website, "Digitising Petra 1929".