The Extraordinary Gertrude Bell

In case you missed our original blog post about the Gertrude Bell Newcastle Insights Lecture earlier in the year, this weekend will be your last chance to visit The Extraordinary Gertrude Bell exhibition.

The Extraordinary Gertrude Bell

CBA North members are warmly invited to visit the Extraordinary Gertrude Bell Exhibition which ends on 3 May 2016 in the Great North Museum Hancock, Newcastle. Although much of her work took place in the Middle East, Gertrude Bell remains one of North-East England’s most internationally famous archaeologists; she also had a significant impact on the contemporary world.

Between 1900 and 1914 Bell travelled extensively in what are now Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Saudia Arabia. Her main interest at the time was in the Byzantine and early Islamic Architecture which she recorded carefully with notes, photographs and scale drawings. Her travels enabled her to meet people, learn languages and understand the topography of relatively unstudied areas. Bell was one of several archaeologists, including for example T.E. Lawrence and D.G. Hogarth, whose experience travelling in the Ottoman Empire before World War I lead to new influence working for British military intelligence. A century ago Gertrude Bell was based in Mesopotamia supporting the war effort first in Basra and later in Baghdad.

She stayed on after WWI and was given the responsibility of writing the government white paper to review the situation in Mesopotamia from the beginning of British involvement in the region. By her death in 1926 she had been instrumental in the choice of Faisal as the first king of the new state of Iraq, as well as drawing up its boundaries, writing its antiquities laws and founding the Baghdad Museum.

The current exhibition has material from the Imperial War Museum, the British Museum and the Royal Geographical Society as well as artefacts she brought back which were given by her half-sister to the Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough, and numerous photographs and material from the Gertrude Bell Archive which was given to Armstrong College, Durham (now Newcastle University), by her family.

On sale are various books including The Extraordinary Gertrude Bell containing short essays by academics from Newcastle University about various aspects of Bell’s life, and for a longer read, Lisa Cooper’s 2016 In Search of Kings and Conquerors: Gertrude Bell and the Archaeology of the Middle East. I.B. Taurus. There is also a public lecture programme alongside the exhibition (see the website at https://greatnorthmuseum.org.uk/whats-on/the-extraordinary-gertrude-bell).

Dr Mark Jackson
Newcastle University

[Editor’s Note: there is a connection between Gertrude Bell and the site that we’ll be having a guided tour of following our AGM business and updates in mid-June. If you’ve not signed up already for the AGM please do remember to do so. We will announce when the further papers promised in the initial announcement are on our website for your perusal and inspection. All CBA North Members will have had an email with the details of the AGM already].

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