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SPRI Review 2001: Picture Library

Picture Library

Manager: Lucy Martin

The Picture Library has been very much involved in the current strong interest in all things polar. We have provided much assistance with picture research and the supplying of photographic material for a plethora of films, books, theatre productions, and exhibitions. The epic story of Ernest Shackleton's boat journey has captured the popular imagination and the Picture Library has been heavily involved in the supply of images, in particular for the film Shackleton's Antarctic adventure, an IMAX film produced by WGBH/NOVA. This has opened in the US and the UK, plus other countries in Europe. A television documentary on Channel 4 produced by White Mountain, shown earlier in the year, also depicted the same expedition. A television 'costume drama' entitled Shackleton, directed by Charles Sturridge and starring Kenneth Brannagh as Shackleton, will be shown in early January, 2002. The Picture Library has worked in collaboration with the Picture Library of the Royal Geographical Society in London to produce an outstanding photographic book, South with Endurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917: the photographs of Frank Hurley. Without doubt the most popular and profitable images in the collection are Hurley's Endurance photographs, and besides the above productions and publications there have been many other smaller publications including books and magazine and newspaper articles, with a large amount of interest from the general public for purchasing prints.

However, Shackleton is not the only polar explorer in demand. As the centenaries of many other expeditions are now upon us, interest has been rekindled in earlier expeditions. Amongst others, the Picture Library has worked closely with Judy Skelton and David Wilson on their book Discovery illustrated: pictures from Captain Scott's first Antarctic expedition. We have also provided assistance to the producers of a play of Antarctica, performed at the Savoy Theatre in London. This highlights the challenges faced by the Northern party on Scott's 1910-13 expedition. Interest has also been shown in individual members from the various expeditions, by both authors and descendants, including a biography on Apsley Cherry-Garrard, written by Sara Wheeler.

This general dissemination of information and interest by illustrations has not all been for adults. Schools and other educational establishments, particularly from the US, have also approached the Picture Library for help with picture research and the supply of photographs.

The Friends of the Institute have very generously agreed to fund the conservation work needed on the five 'Red' Discovery photograph albums. This entails scanning the photographs. The bindings and covers, which are deteriorating, will then be rebound by a conservator.

The Picture Library owes much to the generosity in time, knowledge, and work put in by the team of volunteers. The cataloguing of the collection continues apace, with substantial inroads being made by Ailsa McQueen and David Powell. Mrs McQueen has catalogued virtually the whole of the Wilfred White collection and is currently working on a collection of Bagshawe-Lester material. Powell has identified and catalogued a large collection of negatives from the British Arctic Air Route Expedition, 1930-31. Angela Haines and Winifred Ware continue with the important programme of re-housing all the historic negatives. They have been joined by Barbara Debenham. Sally Stonehouse continues to sort out the video collection, and John Reid's assistance in identifying unknown photographs is incredibly helpful. Work placement students Simon Bonamy and James Morrall performed useful work in the scanning and production of CDs of many images from the slide collection, as well as entering onto a computer file the annotations in photographic albums.

The manager of the Picture Library attended two courses during the year. The first, 'Negotiating and library skills,' was run by the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies, and provided useful information about the skills needed to negotiate effectively with clients. The second, 'Preservation and conservation of photographic materials (theory),' provided extremely interesting information relating to the identification, causes of degradation, conservation treatment options, and handling and storing of photographic material. Both courses are of particular importance in the running of an historical photographic archive with a commercial remit.