Boost for Newcastle University's Gertrude Bell archive

A collection devoted to one of the North East’s most celebrated women has been boosted by a new aquisition

Newcastle University have aquired tapestries belonging to renowned writer and traveller Gertrude Bell to add to it’s archive
Newcastle University have aquired tapestries belonging to renowned writer and traveller Gertrude Bell to add to it’s archive

A collection devoted to one of the North East’s most celebrated women has been boosted by a new aquisition.

Mountaineer, archaeologist, adventurer and Arab culture expert Gertrude Bell played a key role in the Middle East during the First World War and helped create modern Iraq.

Born in Washington, then in County Durham, her story will be told in the forthcoming Werner Herzog film Queen of the Desert, starring Nicole Kidman and Damian Lewis, who has visited Newcastle University to view the Gertrude Bell archive.

Her archive includes 7,000 of her photographs, letters, diaries, field notes and her extensive library. Now textiles she collected during her adventures have been acquired by the university.

The four embroidered pieces were probably used as tent dividers.

The pieces were taken by Bell to Wallington Hall in Northumberland, where her half-sister lived and where they stayed until they were auctioned late last year.

Bell expert Dr Mark Jackson, a lecturer in archaeology at Newcastle University said: “This is very exciting for us. Although the university houses Gertrude Bell’s archive, this will be the first time we have items which she bought on her travels and belonged to her.

“The photographs, diaries and letters are fantastic but the textiles give the flavour of the places she visited and they are objects with which she surrounded herself.”

Professor Eric Cross, university dean of cultural affairs, said: “Bell was a truly remarkable woman and we are thrilled that we have been able to acquire these items. She achieved so much at a time when it was difficult for women to do so.”

Keeper of archaeology Andrew Parkin, said: “We now have some objects that she owned and these add a further dimension to our appreciation of her life.”

People can visit the Gertrude Bell website at http://gertrudebell.ncl.ac.uk.

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