Follow up: The Archaeology of WWI in Palestine

Posted in: Digital Archaeology, Historical Archaeology
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By: Jeffrey A. Blakely

This post is a reply to comments on Jeff Blakely’s previous post The Archaeology of World War I in Palestine and the Beginning of the Modern Middle East. Robert Merrillees praised the post but asked why Australian records had not been mentioned.

I greatly appreciate the comments of Ambassador Merrillees and in seeing this discussion extended.  He rightly points to the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra as a treasure trove of documents and photographs relating to WWI Palestine.  My goal was to cover the topic with limited use of examples and I chose to highlight the collections of the Library of Congress, its Matson Collection in particular, simply because the interested scholar or student can obtain high quality digital photographic downloads free and with limited copyright issues.  For sure the records at the AWM are the most valuable for Australia, but online images tend to be lower resolution and obtaining copyright permissions and images with higher resolution entails expense and time.  The Imperial War Museum (IWM) for Great Britain also has an invaluable collection, but fewer of its photographic images are online.

Beyond the superb collections at the AWM and the IWM, the British National Archives (formerly the PRO) holds all the original unit diaries, many photographs, and maps.  I have seen and obtained wonderful photographs from the National Army Museum in London, the Archives of the Royal Engineers in Gillingham/Chatham, and even the British Library has a useful collection.  Many smaller and local libraries throughout Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand also have incredible photographs as well as personal diaries, but again, obtaining copyright permissions can be expensive and time consuming.

Another source of wonderful illustrations is various online forums, such as the Desert Column, the Great War Forum, and the Australian Light Horse Association Forum, as examples.  To me, however, using photographs from these sources might be problematic since the true owner of copyright is often less than clear.


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