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SPRI Review 1998: Polar History and Humanities Group

Polar History and Humanities Group

Dr B. Riffenburgh

H.G.R. King, P. Speak, Dr J. West, M.P. Casarini-Wadhams

During the year, the Polar History and Humanities Group and its corresponding members continued with a wide range of research, dealing with polar, maritime, and exploration history and Arctic humanities studies.

Dr Beau Riffenburgh spent extensive time at the British Newspaper Library at Colindale and the Newspaper Library of the New York Public Library as part of his continuing research into the roles of the British and American popular press in the creation, dissemination, and effect of imperial heroic exploration information and myths in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As previously, this work was carried out in conjunction with membes of the History Departments at the University of Lancaster and the University of London. In conjunction with Dr Elizabeth Cruwys, Dr Riffenburgh researched and wrote a biography of H.G. Ponting, the photographer on Robert Falcon Scott's last expedition, which was due to be published in November 1998.

In addition to his regular lecturing on nineteenth-century exploration at the University of Cambridge, Dr Riffenburgh gave invited lectures or papers at the University of London, and examined a PhD thesis at the University of Lancaster. In December and January, he lectured about exploration on four Antarctic cruises; in July and August, he lectured on two cruises to the high Arctic, on one of which he was able to examine closely the remains of Adolphus W. Greeley's final camp during the US Lady Franklin Bay Expedition of 1881-1884, which was part of the International Polar Year.

Dr Janet West continued her research on the Institute collection of scrimshaw. After a long illness, she was able to return to work for a month at the Kendall Whaling Museum, Sharon, Massachusetts, where she is an advisory curator. Using microscopy and other techniques, she analysed the engraving style and motifs of the scrimshaw artist Frederick Myrick (fl. 1828-1829) and presented two papers at a subsequent symposium on Myrick and his work.

Peter Speak's long-awaited book Keyguide to information sources on the polar and cold regions (co-authored with William Mills) was published by Mansell in July 1998. It offers a comprehensive guide to printed, CD-ROM, online, and Internet resources.

Maria Pia Casarini-Wadhams (Research Student) continued her research for her doctoral thesis entitled 'Lady Jane Franklin and her role in the Franklin searches, 1848-1860.' She lectured about the Franklin searches on a cruise to the North Pole in July.