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SPRI Review 2006: Archives


Naomi Boneham returned to SPRI in May 2006 to take over the management of the Institute's archives. Naomi previously worked at the Institute between 2002 and 2004 with responsibility for the Archives Hub project, which saw the archive catalogues made available online. The archive booking system introduced in May 2005 has enabled researchers to plan their visits very efficiently. In 2006, 476 half-day appointments were booked, making this the busiest year ever for archive readers. Visitors from Europe, North and South American, Australia and New Zealand were welcomed to the Institute, some for extended periods of research.

The scope of research undertaken by our visitors has been wide ranging. Biographers have been working on the lives of Edward Wilson, Joseph Stenhouse and Frank Debenham, the latter of whom was founder and first Director of SPRI. Researchers undertook work on, for example, 19th century Canadian Arctic exploration, the Antarctic expeditions of Captain Scott, the development of motorised sledges for polar exploration and of radio-echo sounding as a tool in the measurement of ice thickness. Finally, relatives of a number of past polar explorers have visited the archives, keen to uncover more information on their ancestors.

We are most grateful to the Scott family for the donation of the collection of personal letters written by Captain Scott and his wife Kathleen. These letters, including Scott's poignant last letter to his wife from Antarctica, were presented by Lady Philippa Scott. Donations such as these are invaluable to the continued building of our scholarly collections.

New accessions to the Archive collections have included material from the British Greenland Expedition, 1952-54, a set of sailing instructions used during one of the many Franklin search expeditions, material from the Norwegian British Swedish Antarctic Expedition, 1949-52, and over 100 letters written by Apsley Cherry-Garrard to Miss Drake, the first secretary to Frank Debenham at SPRI.

The work of the archive volunteers - Deirdre Hanna, Michael Laughton and John Reid - has been of great assistance. Miss Luisa Retamales also undertook a month of work experience with the Archives and Picture Library in August and September as part of her degree from the University of Konstanz.

Naomi Boneham