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SPRI Review 2005: Archives


After more than twenty years as Archivist, Robert Headland retired at the end of September 2005. Heather Lane has taken on the role of Acting Keeper of Collections. The Thomas H. Manning Polar Archive continues to attract large numbers of visiting scholars, biographers and researchers. On 1 May 2005, an online booking system was introduced, which enables archives readers to reserve a desk space for one or more half-day sessions by completing a form on the Institute's web site. The details are forwarded by email and confirmation of the booking is normally despatched within 24 hours of receipt. In the period to December, requests for 168 half-day sessions were received. By remaining open during the summer months, SPRI was able to welcome more researchers to the Archives in 2005 than in any previous year, some for extended periods. The assistance of volunteers Deirdre Hanna and Michael Laughton has proved invaluable.

As ever, a wide range of requests for information from the archives was satisfied, on topics as diverse as the Franklin Search, the woodcuts of Edward Whymper, the plans of Discovery and the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey. Many relatives of members of polar expeditions were welcomed during the year and were intrigued to find that we sometimes hold photographs of their family member, as well as personal correspondence, diaries and official reports. Acquisitions during the year included part of the archive of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Aerial Survey Expedition (FIDASE) 1955-1957, including documents and photographs from the expedition leader Peter Mott, purchased at auction. With the aid of an MLA/V&A Purchase Grant, and help from a number of generous donors, we were also able to acquire a long-missing hand written copy of the diary of Dr E.A. Wilson, made by his father, Dr E.T. Wilson. This manuscript copy is in three volumes. Verification of its authenticity was originally made by members of the Institute's staff in 1972. In the absence of a full set of the original diaries, this written copy is the fullest version of Wilson's Terra Nova diary available. It is therefore of national interest and will complement the existing collection of E.A. Wilson expedition papers in the Institute's archives, as well as our extensive collection of Wilson's watercolours, sketches and drawings. In addition, we were also able to purchase MS 'I', the first of a set of his early journals, of which SPRI holds nos. VII to XI.

Heather Lane