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The Bean Archive

In 1990 the Museum of Classical Archaeology received a donation which included a rather worn looking brown leather suitcase. With a broken handle and tuck locks long past working, the old brown suitcase was carefully placed in a storeroom to remain largely untouched for nearly 25 years.

In 2014 the suitcase resurfaced and over 3,000 photographs and negatives were discovered inside. The pink chalk mark 'Bean', etched in capitals on the lid, identified the owner and photographer.


Who was George E. Bean?

black and white photograph of an steps leading up to an archway, with two men seen from behind

George stepping through an archway on the west of the theatre at Miletus, 1950s (D5.5)


George Ewart Bean (1903-1977) was a well known topographer and epigraphist of Classical Turkey. He was first a school teacher at St Paul's School in London, where he had also been a student, and then, after World War II, he helped to found the Archaeology Department at the University of Istanbul. He continued to teach Classics in Istanbul for over twenty years. The photographs and negatives in the archive are his research materials.

Amongst the inscribed stones, ruinous archaeological sites and dramatic landscapes, George perhaps unwittingly captured moments of beauty in the places and faces of his traveling companions – both two- and four-legged.


Creating the Bean Archive

black and white photograph of a group of men and women, including local Turksih guides

Group photograph (Jane, second right on second top row; George, next to Jane), unknown location 1950-60 (D5.4)


The Bean Archive was curated in 2015 and will be of great interest to those with an enthusiasm for the Turkish archaeology of the Classical period and for Turkish history in general. It also provides a valuable insight into the experience of archaeologists working and traveling during the middle of the 20th century.

Thanks to the support the Museum's Committee, 2015 marked the creation of the Bean Archive: a fully conserved, organised and rehoused photograph archive. Each of the photographs has been digitised, along with accompanying documents, and are now available for everyone to access.

The cataloguing, research and curation of the Bean Archive was undertaken by Dr. Kate Beats between June 2014 and March 2015, with the help of Cliff Jenkinson and Georgina Doji. Great thanks are owed to Jane Bean, George's wife, for her willingness to share stories from her travels with George, which have enriched these webpages.


Consulting the Bean Archive

The Bean Archive Online Catalogue is hosted by the Fitzwilliam Museum. (Please note: unfortunately, this catalogue is not available at the moment. Please contact the Curator with any queries instead.)

To arrange research visit or image reproduction permissions, please contact our Curator:

Dr. Susanne Turner
Tel. +44 (0)1223 335153


Find out more


an open brown leather suitcase filled with envelopes

The Bean Suitcase, 2015

Every cast tells two stories.
One ancient. One modern.

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All images and material on our websites are ©Museum of Classical Archaeology, University of Cambridge unless otherwise stated. If you would like to reproduce our images, you can now do so for non-commercial use at no charge.

See also our Copyright Notice and Take Down Policy.