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SPRI Review 2008: Thomas H Manning Polar Archives

Thomas H Manning Polar Archives

December 2008 was the last month before the closure of the archives for renovation. The month saw 78 half-day visits booked for the three readers' desks in the archive. Visiting scholars shared the reading room with SPRI students in the run-up to Christmas. The year has been characterised by two major projects. The Freeze Frame: historic polar images project and the Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the redevelopment of the Museum and its associated archival and curatorial spaces.

New accessions to our archival collection have continued to arrive. On 19 June, we welcomed Sir Ranulph Fiennes to the Institute for a formal presentation of his Transglobe Expedition records to the Archive. This collection consists of a large number of maps and all the expedition files from its first inception to the triumphant return. The continued generosity of Sir Ranulph and other polar explorers and their descendants has, however, created a problem of space. The old store designed as part of the 1960s redevelopment of the Institute has almost reached capacity, and so plans for a complete redesign were included in the Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the redevelopment of the Polar Museum. Work on the collections during the latter part of the year was therefore undertaken with this in mind and plans drawn up for a complete refit.

John Barnes and family kindly donated the diaries and photographs of his uncle H.R. 'Bob' Young, who was a member of both of Admiral Byrd's first two Antarctic expeditions, 1928-1930 and 1933-35. A further acquisition is a group of letters, all addressed to William Bradford, relating to nineteenth century Arctic exploration. Correspondents include John Rae, Lady Franklin, Charles Hall and George Nares, and the collection also contains a diary by J. Purvis of the Antarctic voyage of Discovery II from 7 October to 21 December 1930. We would like to thank the Friends for their generous support in assisting with the purchase of the Bradford collection.

The Friends also provided matching funding for an MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund award of £8,250 towards the purchase of a sketchbook produced by the 19th-century Kilamiut (West Greenlandic) artist Isak fra Igdlorpait. This very fine sketchbook, produced by a naive Greenlandic artist, documents everyday life in Greenland at the end of the 19th century. The illustrations, colourfully executed in a simple style, are accompanied by explanatory notes in Greenlandic written by the artist and translations of those notes into Danish by a later owner. Representations include boats, fishing, hunting, native costumes, icebergs, the landscape, buildings, local birds, and fish and other sea creatures. Only two other picture-books by Isak fra Igdlorpait are known to exist, both of which are in public collections in Europe.

The support of the Friends and the continued, dedicated work of the archive volunteers Deirdre Hanna, Michael Laughton, Sally Stonehouse and Lucy Lewis is gratefully acknowledged.

Naomi Boneham