Our First Hundred Years (and fifty more)*

By Adam Fraser and Amara Thornton**

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the Palestine Exploration Fund.  To kick off the celebration (as a preface to the events that are to come throughout the year) we will be looking at our first hundred year celebration in 1965.

Held at the Victoria and Albert Museum initially from 1 October to 28 November, “World of the Bible” featured a wide range of goodies from the PEF’s history.  In addition, the PEF benefitted from the skills of its co-sponsor the British Council’s art and graphics department.  The 3D maps of the Holy Land they made for the exhibition are still held in the PEF today.

The exhibition highlighted various phases of the PEF’s history, beginning with the initial surveys by Charles Warren and Claude Conder and Herbert Horatio Kitchener in the 1860s and 1870s.  It showcased a century of excavations in the Holy Land, culminating in Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations in Jerusalem. A folder in the PEF archive is devoted to press cuttings from “World of the Bible” – one of the most publicised displays was a reconstructed rock-cut tomb from Lachish, discovered during the Wellcome-Marston Expedition in the 1930s. The Queen Mother was among the visitors!

The archaeologist Olga Tufnell organised the exhibition – her detailed journals in the PEF’s archive chronicle her efforts to arrange the displays. Loan material was gathered from around the UK and beyond.  After its debut at the V & A, a pared-down version of “World of the Bible” went on tour to cities in Britain and the Middle East.

Thanks to Olga’s efforts, there is a substantial collection at the PEF commemorating this exhibition. Here are some of the treasures we’ve found.

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Exhibition publication from the PEF’s archive – from the notice at the bottom obviously this was not the copy offered for sale to the public. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

Labels from the exhibition archive.  Some highlight items on display, while others indicate key moments in the PEF's history. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

Labels from the exhibition archive. Some highlight items on display, while others indicate key moments in the PEF’s history. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

This telegram from the British Consul General at Beyrout to PEF Secretary Walter Besant shares the news of the attack on PEF surveyors at Safed, near the Sea of Galilee. It was mounted for exhibition in 1965. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

This telegram from the Consul General at Beyrout to PEF Secretary Walter Besant shares the news of the attack on PEF surveyors at Safed, near the Sea of Galilee, in July 1875. It was mounted for exhibition in 1965. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

Philanthropist and traveller John Macgregor was an active member of the PEF.  In his canoe, “Rob Roy”, he sailed the Jordan River in 1868/1869, identifying its source.  Olga Tufnell chose to exhibit his original sketchbook in the 1965 exhibition.  This image from the sketchbook showcases Macgregor’s considerable skill as an artist.  His best-selling book “Rob Roy on the Jordan” was published in the autumn of 1869.  Macgregor donated his sketchbook to the PEF in 1880.

Philanthropist and traveller John Macgregor was an active member of the PEF. In his canoe, “Rob Roy”, he sailed the Jordan River in 1868/1869, identifying its source. Olga Tufnell chose to exhibit his original sketchbook in the 1965 exhibition. This image from the sketchbook showcases Macgregor’s considerable skill as an artist. He donated his sketchbook to the PEF in 1880. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

The page following this peaceful watercolour in John Macgregor’s sketchbook lists supplies for an expedition to Huleh, in the north east of modern day Israel.  The items listed include tea, soup and brandy, a pistol, flannel trousers, money and quinine. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

The page following this peaceful watercolour in John Macgregor’s sketchbook lists supplies for an expedition to Huleh, in the north east of modern day Israel. The items listed include tea, soup and brandy, a pistol, flannel trousers, money and quinine. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

Charles Warren’s shafts tunnelling through the ground in Jerusalem are deftly captured in this line drawing in John Magregor’s sketchbook. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

Charles Warren’s shafts tunnelling through the ground in Jerusalem are deftly captured in this line drawing in John Magregor’s sketchbook. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

This annotated V&A museum letterhead was pasted inside one of Olga Tufnell’s exhibition notebooks. It lists the admission details for exhibiton visitors. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

This annotated V&A museum letterhead was pasted inside one of Olga Tufnell’s exhibition notebooks. It lists the admission details for exhibiton visitors. Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

*Our title derives from eminent Victorian Egyptologist Margaret Murray’s colourful autobiography My First Hundred Years, published in 1963 when she was 100 years old.
** With special thanks to John MacDermot.

2 thoughts on “Our First Hundred Years (and fifty more)*

  1. I thought you might be interested in the news that the PEF’s former secretary Walter Besant, who is mentioned above, appears as a character in my forthcoming novel Death and Mr Pickwick, which will be published by Random House on 21st May. The novel tells the story of the creation and subsequent history of Dickens’s first novel, The Pickwick Papers, and Besant appears in two important episodes, first as a young man at university, when he won first prize in an examination on The Pickwick Papers, and then as a much older man when he wrote a story “The Death of Samuel Pickwick”. You can find out more about my novel at http://www.deathandmrpickwick.com I have also posted about Besant on the novel’s facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/deathandmrpickwick/posts/644026462397876

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