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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.

The finished catalogue is now available on the Archives Hub.

Project Team

James Neill - Project Archivist

Vanessa Santos Torres - Project Conservator

Michelle Williams-Ward - Project Osteologist

Alison Cullingford - Principal Investigator (until Dec 2018)

Jo Buckberry - Principal Investigator (from Jan 2019)

Sarah George - Project Board

Meg Graham - Placement Student

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.  Full 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.

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

Articles about the Project

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. Not currently available online.

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.

Magic, Myth and Medicine in the Calvin Wells Archive, by James Neill. Article on the fantastic Folklore Thursday website.

The Calvin Wells Palaeopathology Archive, by James Neill.  Archives Hub feature for October 2018.