Friday, 17 May 2013

Meeting the Lubkins

This week I had the privilege of meeting Marianne and Jim Lubkin as they were passing through London on their way from an Atlantic cruise to some weeks' holiday in Europe. Marianne and Jim are dedicated docents at the Freer Sackler Gallery in Washington DC, which holds the archival papers of Ernst Herzfeld (1879–1948) - a collection documenting his archaeological activities in Samarra as well as Persepolis, Pasargadae, Paikuli and Aleppo, and which includes correspondence, field notebooks, drawings, sketchbooks, squeezes of architectural inscriptions and details, and photographs. 

This amazing resource - which the FSG has been digitising over the last few years - includes Herzfeld's Finds Journal from his excavations at Samarra, which is an invaluable primary source for us as we research the dispersed small finds. Each object has a 'red number' written on it which indicates a find spot, and which spot this is can be checked by looking in the Finds Journal. The problem has been that the Finds Journal, though digitised, can only be accessed online in fairly low resolution images, and beyond that we are faced with the problem of Herzfeld's idiosyncratic handwriting and, even more of a hurdle for some of us, the fact that it is all written in German.

However, the Lubkins have solved that problem! Marianne alone has spent more than 550 hours translating the contents of the Finds Journal into English, and Jim has typed it all up, painstakingly reconstructing each page of the original Journal so that the English version matches it page for page, aiding the researcher even more. During their visit they presented me with this treasure on a CD - you can see a screenshot of the first page on the computer in the background. This is going to make our lives so much easier! Thank you so much Marianne and Jim!

Mariam Rosser-Owen

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