Transforming the Gertrude Bell Archive

Valentina and Graham are staff members who work on the Gertrude Bell Archive. Both of their roles have been funded thanks to the generosity of the Harry and Alice Stillman Family Foundation, who have donated money to the university to transform the archive. This is Valentina and Graham's story.

A significant influencer and modern-day icon, Gertrude Bell is perhaps most known for her role in King Faisal I's rise to power and the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq under British Administration in 1921. Her letters and photographs in the Archive illustrate this exceptional journey and poignant moment in global history.

The Kingdom of Iraq was officially founded on 23 August 1921, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the Mesopotamian campaign of World War I. The centenary of this event represents a unique opportunity for Newcastle University to share the story of Gertrude Bell and Iraq with a broader audience, made possible through the transformative digitisation work supported by this donation.

Items included in the Archive include 1,827 letters, giving detailed accounts of Bell’s travels and interactions, and more than 7,000 travel photographs from around the world, many of which include sites and landscapes that no longer exist.

The donation has allowed Valentina and Graham to preserve these items through digitisation, ensure all the information that currently exists is accurately described and allowing the team to publicise what they have as part of the collection through outreach projects and exhibitions.

Gertrude Bell

In a world that's constantly moving forward, it's increasingly important to support and open up heritage, culture, research and academia.

Valentina Flex
Project Archivist for the Gertrude Bell Collection

Valentina explains, "It's a resource that preserves and shows the cultural heritage of people from all over the world. It lives here but it doesn't belong just to us, it belongs to everyone, and the donation is really allowing us to make this as widely available as we can."

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