Update from the ASOR Archives

In a photo from the Archives, archaeologist Nelson Glueck takes a break from his explorations to snap a photo with a soldier, circa 1938.

Greetings from the ASOR Archives! As you may know, the ASOR Archives has been a hive of activity for the last three years as we have been organizing, preserving, and digitizing over one hundred years of records documenting ASOR’s history and the history of American archaeology in the Near East.

In the last six months or so, we have really been able to focus on the goal established in our original NEH grant proposal – to make ASOR’s archival collections available to the public online. Though the project continues, I’d like to update you on our progress and introduce you to some of our collections. Continue reading


In the last six months, we have completed and exceeded each of the goals established for this period
in the work plan for the NEH-funded archives project. These goals fall into five categories:

  1. Digitization - Begin digitization of the materials stored at ASOR headquarters
  2. Metadata - Fine-tune a metadata schema and create MARC records for the collections.
  3. Processing Plans - Creating processing plans for materials stored at the Semitic Museum at Harvard University, and at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem.
  4. Promoting the Archive
  5. Fundraising

Digitization. The original work plan states that during this period, we would begin
the digitization process. Instead of processing the collection completely before moving to
the digitization phase, we have developed and implemented a digitization procedure that
is included as a step in processing a collection, so digitization began as a part of
processing our very first collection. To date, over 15,000 pages of archival material have been digitized.

Metadata. As described in our last update, we have installed Archon, an open
source archives content management software package that encodes finding aids using
Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and has the ability to present finding aids and
digital objects in an online interface. Archon automatically generates
standardized, Dublin Core metadata. By using this software in conjunction with Library
of Congress subject headings, we have not needed to create our own metadata thesaurus
or schema. In the next few months, Archon will become accessible through the ASOR Archives website.

Processing Plans. The original work plan proposed completely processing the
materials located at ASOR headquarters before beginning to process the materials stored
at the Semitic Museum at Harvard University. The archivist judged that, due to the
quantity and significance of the materials at the Semitic Museum, those materials should
be processed concurrently with the materials located at headquarters. A processing plan
was created for these materials several months ago, and the collections are being

The work plan also proposed that, during this period, a work plan would be
developed to remotely process the materials stored in Jerusalem. Those materials have
been shipped to ASOR headquarters, and are being processed along with our other

Promoting the Archive. Articles about the archive have been featured in BU
Today, the ASOR Newsletter, and on the ASOR blog. The next two
issues of Near Eastern Archaeology Magazine will include articles about collections in
the archives.

We have created a brochure describing the archive, and make a point of including
the archive whenever possible in ASOR marketing materials. Two
exhibit banners have been created to highlight ASOR’s role in the discovery of the Dead
Sea Scrolls and the fascinating photograph collections in the archives. These banners
have been displayed at a booth dedicated to the archives project at the ASOR Annual
Meeting, and at an exhibitor table at the Archaeological Institute of America Annual
Meeting. There are plans to display the banners in the Archaeology Department at Boston
University, and other places where interest in the archives might be generated.
Fundraising. In addition to our existing fundraising techniques, ASOR has hired a
development assistant to research funding sources for the archives and other ASOR
projects. We are awaiting replies from several foundations. Since our last update, we
have raised $2,680 from private donors.

Beyond the objectives laid out in the work plan, we have received twenty three additional
reference requests. In the first year that the archives was open to the public, we averaged
about two (1.8) requests per month. As more materials become available, and more
potential researchers learn about this resource, reference inquiries have doubled to an
average of four requests per month.

Additionally, we have shipped the remainder of ASOR materials from the
Albright Institute in Jerusalem to ASOR headquarters in Boston. There is considerable
overlap between the shipped materials and the collections in Boston, so physically
unifying these collections has been an important accomplishment.

To learn more, visit the archives website or contact the archivist at asorarch@bu.edu.

ASOR Opens its Boston Archives

ASOR Archive

Cynthia Rufo is archiving more than a century of archaeological records and photos. Photo by Vernon Doucette.

BU Today (Boston University) is announcing that ASOR (The American Schools of Oriental Research) is opening its archaeological archive in Boston to the public.

Included in its collections are diaries of archaeologists; rare photos of various excavations, including Qumran in the West Bank, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; and miscellanea, like a reproduction of an 1873 sultan’s permit for a dig in Palestine.

Be sure to make use of the archive when you are in the Boston area.

The American Schools of Oriental Research archive is open to the public, by appointment, at its headquarters, 656 Beacon St., Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Access is free. Those interested should contact archivist Cynthia Rufo at 617-358-4428 or at asorarch@bu.edu. A description of the collections can be found here.