On archaeological archives, elbows and ladders…

Who: Lydia Fisher

What: I’m a Collections Access Officer in the  Collections Department at RCAHMS

How did you get here?
A BA in Archaeology from Simon Fraser University in Canada, museum volunteering, one plane ticket, two years at the British Geological Survey, and then an opportunity to work in heritage at RCAHMS, I’ve been here since 2006.



What are you working on today?
As a member of the Collections Department at RCAHMS, I help look after the archive of photographs, drawings, maps and manuscripts while also assisting with research enquiries in our public search room. Today I’m cataloguing, rehousing and creating a collections hierarchy for the personal notebooks, papers, correspondence and aerial photographs of the pioneering aerial archaeologist, geologist and Romanist J. Kenneth St Joseph of Cambridge University. He was instrumental in establishing Cambridge University’s Collection of Aerial Photographs (CUCAP) and in 1973 became Professor of Air Photographic Studies. His work has transformed our knowledge of the early history of Scotland through the identification of sites visible only from the air.  He wrote and lectured widely on the subject of aerial photography and archaeology, his particular interest being in Roman Britain.  The collections work that I am undertaking will assist in making the archive more accessible to researchers through our online catalogue Canmore.

Further information, photographs and drawings on these sites can be found on our online database Canmore: Ulston Moor and Inchtuthil

Published books available in our search room by JK St Joseph include Roman Britain from the Air (with S S Frere) (1983) and The Uses of Air Photography (1977). Roman Camps in Scotland (2011) by our very own Dr Rebecca Jones also refers to the JK St Joseph archive and the notebooks held at RCAHMS.

What did university not teach you?
Anything about architecture – it is a subject I have had to learn about from research enquiries, by cataloguing architectural drawings and from working with knowledgeable colleagues.

Surprising part of your job?
Working with collections material can be quite physical, so clothing needs to be practical (you are unlikely to find us in dainty dresses or heels) and it helps if you’re good with heights. I’ve become very adept at pushing buttons on doors and elevators with my elbow and paper cuts can be a common occupational hazard.