My friend Jo Draper, who has died aged 68 from cancer, was an author, editor, archaeologist, museum curator and an authority on post-medieval pottery. Much of her considerable output focused around Dorset and her adopted home town of Dorchester.
Born near Winchester, Hampshire, the daughter of John and Betty Draper, Jo espoused the common-sense values of her farming background. Encouraged by a teacher at Fareham girls’ grammar school to take part in an archaeological dig in Portsmouth in 1964, she moved on to join Barry Cunliffe’s key excavations at Portchester Castle and Fishbourne Roman Palace, near Chichester, West Sussex. She then enjoyed a happy stint at Southampton University, where she met and married Christopher Chaplin, then an archaeologist and later a land surveyor for the Ordance Survey.
A mixed bag of archaeology and museum work followed in Northampton, where she published guides to the fine post-medieval pottery collection of the town’s museum. In the 1970s she and Christopher moved to Dorchester, where she ran excavations and edited Dorset County Museum Society’s Proceedings (1980-95). A prolific contributor herself, she also wrote regularly for local magazines. She researched and published 16 booklets for exhibitions and collections in Northampton, Dorchester, Verwood and Lyme Regis.
In Lyme Regis as cataloguer and later consultant curator she played a key role in the striking revamp of the museum in 1999 and instituted an annual Mary Anning Day, raising the profile of the town’s most famous palaeontologist.
Her pride and joy were 19 books for Dovecote Press, especially Thomas Hardy’s England (1984), produced with her friend the writer John Fowles, based in Lyme, and Dorset: The Complete Guide (1986), for which, with Christopher, she visited every church and location in the county, twice. She was elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1987.
Her writing methods remained pre-computer age, text drafts thundered out on an old…