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Putting Flesh on the Bones: cataloguing and digitising the Calvin Wells Archive

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, this project will unlock a hidden collection with huge potential for research, teaching and public engagement. It's all about the bones!

Keep up to date with our discoveries via the Project Blog.

About the Project

Calvin Wells was a doctor turned archaeologist, who pioneered the study of disease and injury in archaeological remains: palaeopathology.  His influence on archaeology and other disciplines remains very strong.  His archive however is under-used, partly because it was split between Special Collections and the department of Archaeological Sciences.

Special Collections, with Dr Jo Buckberry, of Archaeological Sciences, and Sarah George, the archaeology subject librarian, have acquired funding from the Wellcome Trust to bring this collection together and catalogue, preserve and digitise it.  This work will enable archaeologists and other scholars to use the evidence in the collection to trace the remains and sites with which Dr Wells was involved.

Project People

Project Archivist: James Neill

Project Osteologist: Michelle Williams-Ward

Project Board:

  • Jo Buckberry, Reader in Archaeological Sciences
  • Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian
  • Sarah George, Subject Librarian for Archaeological Sciences

Project Conservator: Vanessa Santos-Torres.

Placement Students, whose support has been/will be invaluable.


Project Timeline

2014-2015.  The mapping of the part in Archaeological Sciences was started by a Special Collections placement student, Lucy Johnson.  We successfully applied for a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Scoping Award, receiving £5,800 to enable us to scope the work required to apply for more funding from Wellcome.

October 2015.  A conservator and archivist visited us in October 2015.  Their reports led to an invitation from Wellcome to submit a full bid. 

October-November 2016.  Bid submitted.  To our delight, it was successful!

June 2017.  Project Archivist James Neill began work.  His work so far includes creating the project blog.

August 2017.  Project Osteologist Michelle Williams-Ward joined us. Official 'launch' of the project, see Links for details of press coverage.

February 2018. Project Archivist Vanessa Santos-Torres started work.


Web page for the part of the archive in Special Collections

Object 60 Bones, Bodies and Disease and Object 92 The story of Skeleton A8 (leprosy in Saxon England) in our 100 Objects exhibition tell the stories of some of the most important Calvin Wells materials in Special Collections.

The Bone Collector, by Maev Kennedy, the Guardian, 11 August 2017, article about the project, with particular emphasis on some of the quirkier objects in the archive.

Interview with Project Archivist James Neill on BCB radio (link currently broken, July 2018).

University of Bradford given £140,000 grant to record work of top scientist Calvin Wells, by Chris Young. Telegraph and Argus, 15 August 2017.

Guest Interview: Putting Flesh on the Bones with James Neill. In-depth interview on a popular site for osteologists.  19 December 2017.