During the last month or so, I’ve been cataloguing the ‘Merriman Collection’ (ref: LDGSL/1088) from our archives. The collection of 412 glass lantern slides, primarily dating from 1880s-1910s, was donated to the Society by Mrs Mary Merriman in 2002 after being found languishing in a garden shed for decades. Around half of the slides relate to one of our Fellows, Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), an Anglo-Ceylonian who later abandoned a promising geological career (he discovered the mineral thorianite) to devote himself instead to the history of Indian and Ceylonese art, culture and philosophy.
Photograph of a large quartz specimen taken in an unknown museum, by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, [1890s-1900s]. Coomaraswamy is shown seated wearing Western clothes which he would also abandon for more traditional Indian dress.
One of the most challenging aspects of archive cataloguing is when a collection arrives with no indication of its origin or even what it is.
In such cases, an archivist has to use their detective skills – for instance deducing likely dates and creators from an item’s format, contents and any other information they can glean from carefully studying the material. To complete the Sherlock Holmes imagery, a magnifying glass was utilised for the Merriman Collection to try and read the fragments of the few tiny labels which were still attached to the lantern slides.
Thankfully the British Geological Survey collection of geological images provided a lot of information. However, as all good detectives know, there is only so far one can go without the help of the public.
There are 73 slides with little or no information, a small sample of which are posted below. Do you recognise any of the features? We’d love to read your suggestions!
To give you a clue, a significant number of the identified photographs appear to relate to volcanic or glacial geology.
Black and white photograph showing a geological feature from Oxted, Surrey, by Johnson, Bird and Co, [1890s-1900s]. Partial caption ‘Iron…?’
Black and white photograph of an unknown geological feature, [1890s-1900s].
Black and white photograph of a group standing in front of unknown geological feature, by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, [1890s-1900s]. The group could be from the Geologists’ Association, of which Coomararswamy was also a member.
Black and white photomicrograph of a section of rock from ‘?North Hale Campsie’, by H Preston, [1890s-1900s].
Black and white photograph of an unknown hill feature, by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, [1890s-1900s]. It could be of an extinct volcano, perhaps from the Auvergne region of France as there are 11 other slides taken by Coomaraswamy in this area.
Black and white photograph of a geological feature in Frocester, by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, [1890s-1900s]. The woman who is included in the scene for scale purposes could be Ethel Partridge, later Ethel Mairet, who became Coomaraswamy’s first wife in 1902.
Black and white photograph of an unknown geological feature, by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, [1890s-1900s].
Black and white photograph of an unidentified section of rock, showing folds and thrusts which have been manually enhanced, by John George Goodchild, [1880s-1900s]. This photograph shows the water damage cause by years of poor storage in a damp environment.