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Digitising the Mary Rose archive

One of the most valuable resources for managing, researching, and learning from the Mary Rose Trust’s collection is the archaeological archive that accompanies it.

Currently most of it only exists in physical form, with thousands of paper documents and photographs forming part of the archive. This limits wider access to it as well as it being at longer term risk of damage or loss.

However, a team of very dedicated Collections Volunteers have been working with us since 2017 to digitise the archive and safeguard it for future generations.

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The archaeological archive includes, but is not limited to:

  • Photographic material of the diving excavation, conservation, study and display of the collection (black and white and colour) 35mm slides, 6×5 transparencies up to A4 transparencies.
  • Dive logs recording the excavation of the Mary Rose in detail. Every time a diver recorded what they did, they noted what they found, when it was found, where it was found and what it was found with.
  • Site books were written by the more senior archaeological supervisors and they capture the day-to-day happenings of the work on site.
  • Shore logs – in some instances items like chests were brought to shore and their contents excavated on the shore. These logs record that process.
  • Radiographs – radiography of concreted artefacts – where iron has rusted and silts and sediments have ‘concreted’ around them – reveal the iron silhouette of the remains of the original object.
  • Drawings – archaeological illustrations of the artefacts and ship timbers. These were particularly useful points of reference as artefacts were not as accessible while they were being conserved.
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To digitise this vast resource we divided the project into phases and, working with the incredible collections volunteers, we have now scanned all of the catalogued photographs, dive logs and shore logs!

Alongside this, others who have worked on the Mary Rose over the years have kindly loaned some of their personal archive for digitisation and we have been able to capture these different perspectives on the project as part of this process.

We ultimately hope to be able to share this vast archive online in the future and are working towards this.  In the meantime, the digitisation project is helping to protect and safeguard this unique and precious archive for future generations.